Fire in the Sky: Sunrise Seen from Aloft

September 13, 2016

AirborneSunset1DSC02837 (1) (1)

AirborneSunset2DSC02856 (3)
Photographer: Patti Weeks
Summary Authors: Patti Weeks; Jim Foster
My four and a half hour, cross-country, red-eye flight from Seattle, Washington to Charlotte, North Carolina, revealed a brilliant fiery red sunrise above several cloud layers as the plane approached the Appalachian Mountains (top photo). An opening in the thick lower cloud bank below the rising Sun showed what looked like a lava lake surrounded by rich red clouds. The longer path length of sunlight when the Sun approaches the horizon attenuates the shorter wavelengths in the visible spectrum (blues and greens). Thus the remaining light is reddened, and if clouds are present and positioned in such a way to reflect sunlight, the sunrise (or sunset) may be resplendent in hues of scarlet and orange.
A few minutes after the first photo was taken, the glint of a distant river appeared through a golden layer of virga, sandwiched between darker clouds above and the illuminated cloud bank below (bottom photo). Alas, this eye-catching sunrise ended during the plane's descent -- light rain was falling when we landed. For more about red skies in the morning click here. Photo taken on August 28, 2016.
Photo Details: SONY DSC-RX 100IV camera; Top photo - 1/80 sec. exposure; f/4; ISO 125; 25.7 mm. Bottom Photo - 1/250 sec. exposure; f/4; ISO 125; 25.7 mm.