An Eruption of Licancabur Volcano?

July 11, 2016

July 2016 Viewer's Choice
Photographer: Yuri Beletsky
Summary Authors: Yuri Beletsky; Jim Foster

Is this an erupting volcano, a wildfire in the distant mountains? No. It's crepuscular rays -- in this case a singular ray. I witnessed this amazing view just before sunrise from the Atacama Desert in Chile (San Pedro de Atacama, Chile). In the center of the image is the well-known stratovolcano Licancabur, standing about 19,420 ft or 5,920 m, here illuminated from behind by the yet-to-rise Sun. While clouds most often are responsible for creating crepuscular rays, they also can be seen in dusty skies if sunlight streams between gaps in a distant mountain range. Note that because aerosols such as large dust particles scatter sunlight in the forward direction, any rays that form are much more conspicuous near the Sun. Photo taken on May 16, 2016.