Projection of Airplane Shadow

May 10, 2024

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Photographer: Hans-Juergen Heyen
Summary Authors: Hans-Juergen Heyen; Jim Foster

The flight path of commercial jets flying into Duesseldorf Airport takes them over Meersbusch where I live. Recently the broken cloud deck over Meerbusch was only around 656 ft (200 m). When driving below the flight path I couldn’t help but notice the low-flying plane shown above as it broke through the cloud deck on its final approach. On this occasion at least, the shadow of the plane was clearly visible as it was projected on the minute cloud droplets.

The position of the shadow in regard to the plane looks a bit odd at first glance because of perspective. However, the scattering angle of sunlight by the droplets plays a role in observing projected shadows such as this. If you're looking toward the direction of the Sun (about 10-degrees on either side of the solar disk), you’ll generally have more success seeing them. Photo taken on March 6, 2024.

Meerbusch, Germany Coordinates: 51.250351, 6.690717

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