Contrail Shadow Over Braunfels, Germany

July 28, 2021

2021-04-24 15.47.412

Photographer: Oliver Stiehler

Summary Author: Oliver Stiehler & Cadan Cummings

2021-04-24 15.47.43Sometimes being in the right place at the right time produces an unusual photo that reveals unique atmospheric phenomena. This photo shows an airplane contrail casting a shadow on wispy cirrus clouds in Braunfels, Germany. Contrails are formed when water from the airplane exhaust and the atmosphere condenses due to extremely cold temperatures and low atmospheric pressure. The result is line shaped clouds are produced which depending on wind speed and humidity can last for anywhere between seconds to several minutes.

From this unique perspective, the contrail overhead is casting a shadow on a lower altitude cloud layer. Note that the shadow appears to be also ahead of the jet itself, which is explained by the Sun angle being directly overhead in addition to the condensation and ice crystals in the contrail scattering the incoming light making the shadow’s projection appear larger.

Photo data: Huawei Mate 20 Pro with all automatic adjustment at 3x zoom factor

View Larger Map