Heads up! Atmospheric optics are around on a regular basis

Dec 7, 2022, 2:00 PM
(Pixabay Photo)...
(Pixabay Photo)
(Pixabay Photo)

The skies are full of amazing sights and I am not just talking about the stars, planets and distant celestial objects, but rather many things which are seen by millions on a daily and nightly basis and simply go unanswered as to what they really are.

I am referring to atmospheric optics.

A better definition would be the scientific description of and explanation for the beautiful and distinctive optical phenomenon seen in the sky. This includes rainbows, ice crystal halos, coronas and iridescence, glories, mirages, sky light and colors and crepuscular rays, to name just a few.

Why do atmospheric optics even occur?

It is because rays of light are strongly bent when they pass through air layers of different temperatures in a steep thermal inversion where an atmospheric duct has formed.

Meteorological optics is the study of atmospheric optics studying observable patterns seen with the naked eye.

Studied for many centuries, the subject was made popular by a book authored by Marcel Minnaert titled, Light and Color in the Open Air, in 1954.

Here are some details on this man and his works.

There are so many areas to cover in the study of atmospheric optics that I have chosen to link to what I feel is one of the very best to explain this phenomenon.

Have you ever looked up in the daytime sky and seen a ring around the sun? If you did, you were looking at ice crystals high in the atmosphere creating a very special 22-degree solar halo. This phenomenon can also be seen at night with a lunar halo too!

Have you ever looked at the setting sun over the ocean and think you saw a tiny green flash of light as the sun just set? You were seeing the elusive green flash!

Another strange phenomenon when looking at the horizon over the ocean are mirages.

These are some of the most amazing atmospheric optical tricks of all and have a long history of observation. One of the most amazing is the phenomenon known as the Fata Morgana.

The story continues with many more exotic atmospheric phenomena, which many of you have never heard of, but may have experienced in your lifetimes.

If you have ever walked in a morning fog in the forest and noticed with the sun shining in front of you, there is a distinct shadow of you and much more!

There is a strange glow surrounding your head and you feel that this is other worldly to say the least. Welcome to the Specter of the Broken.

There are so many additional realms of atmospheric optics to explore. I hope that this short journey will open many minds as to the many wonders of our physical world!

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

 To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.

 Podcasts are available here.


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Heads up! Atmospheric optics are around on a regular basis