Category Archives: coronae and iridescence
When air humidity is high, sometimes wake vortices can be observed on the wings of a plane. These are an accessory phenomenon of the ascending force, which needs a certain underpressure to be effective. This underpressure makes the air flow from beneath the wing to its surface for pressurization. As in these vortices there is an area of especially low pressure, the air cools down adiabatically here, often reaching temperatures below the dew point. This makes the water vapour in the air condensate to steam or fog, making the wakes visible.
In the morning of October 8, 2012, Renate Possiel could take a photograph of this phenomenon from the control tower of Munich airport. That day there were wafts of mist with different ranges of sight on the runways. More photographs: 1-2-3
Another reason for wake vortices to form is the downward acceleration of the air along the wings when the plane is ascending. At low temperatures and high humidity, also here visible condensation can occur. When a plane passes near the sun, sometimes an iridescence of the wakes can be observed, as showed in this photograph taken by Gabor Metzger.
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This photograph was taken by Hans-Jürgen Heyen from Meerbusch. “I discovered the glory effect in August 2012 at the pond of Hugenpoet Castle in Essen-Kettwig. It made me take a closer look at the water because one tends to think that there are mineral oil products on the surface. But there were gigantic carps in the pond and also some big golden fish which looked like koi-carps. And also a beautiful demoiselle flew over the water. And especially this species of dragonflies is very sensitive against environmental pollution. However, what really was there in the water were algae which caused a significant clouding of the water, and this obviously was the reason for the formation of the algae glory.”
These coronae are caused by light diffraction on very small particles. In most cases, they are caused by algae, but there were also such coloured rings observed around pollen which had landed on the water surface. The coronae are caused when a ray of light is split up into partial beams by such a small particle. These partial beams go on into different directions and interfere in the observer´s eye.
Just like pollen coronae, also algae coronae are not always round. When there are unusually shaped algae are involved, also their ring systems on the water surface can be ovally shaped or have bright spots.
Sodalite – sodium aluminium silicate chloride – is a mineral of volcanic origin (chemical formula: Na8Al6Si6O24Cl2) and it comes from hydrothermal fluids in a volcanic rock’s cavity. The sodalite containing rock itself is not homogenous but consists of many different, small minerals beside the blue sodalite.
The mineral itself is very nice deep royal blue in general, the piece illustrating this article was mined at Mt. Vesuvius and bought in a mineral shop in Italy. The sodalite pieces are full of other crystals, usually well visible whitish veins which mostly consist of calcite.
When looking at the mineral with the help of some magnifying device we can see small parts of it having thin and colourful layers! These coloured parts are concentrated at the edges of the calcite veins or patches and only visible in a magnified form. Here, the translucent calcite was built on the blue sodalite mineral in a later process different from the forming of the blue crystals from the original hydrothermal solution. These places must also contain a very thin layer of air which is responsible for the colours with its interference.
What is unknown: the forming of the air layers. Are they originally there or are they created when the stone is cut from the rocks? I think the later is more possible as the sodalite rocks can more easily break where the white veins run, so the chopping of the rock might create the gaps, resulting interference patterns. The process might be the same as the ice pieces with fissures showing interference colouration too.
The pictures (1 – 2 – 3) were taken with a cheap digital microscope, the magnificiation which shows the interference colours is 200X. Smaller magnification also shows it but only in tiny coloured spots.
Author: Mónika Landy-Gyebnár, Hungary
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Colourful coronae around the sun and the moon are caused by light diffraction at water droplets in medium level clouds. Normally these coronae are circular like this case, as they indicate that the droplets in a cloud are all of about the same size. If only a 10% of the droplets vary in size, the corona already appears blurred. (see left figure)
In this observation, made by Bertram Radelow at Davos, Switzerland, in the evening of October 10, 2011 at moonrise, the corona showed very brilliant colours but nevertheless was rather “egg-shaped”. Bertram Radelow said the corona appeared in very thin clouds which could not be seen with the naked eye. Probably there were thin orographic clouds (as can be seen here). In these clouds, droplets are often largest in the centre of the cloud and getting smaller gradually towards the rim, so that the colours are preserved because in a given plane the droplets are still of about the same size.
In this example it looks as if two layers of clouds with different sized droplets are positioned above each other, causing a kind of break in the gradient of the corona.
On February 6, 2011, Dirk Steinborn observed these beautiful iridescent foehn clouds in Favang (about 1-hour-drive north of Lillehammer, Norway). The photographs were taken between 14 and 15 hours CET. The observer supposes: “Probably there weren´t any mother-of-pearl clouds. It is cirrus, but also some medium level clouds had a reddish colour.”
Around noon on April 22, 2011 (Good Friday), I went to a hedge near Limburg (Hesse, Germany). As the weather was sunny and dry, some goat willows (Salix caprea) sent a large amount of seeds into the spring air. Together with the bright mid day sunshine, these caused some surprising effects. Often there was just one bright area around the sun (1-2-3), but from time to time a colourful corona appeared in the seeds.
Author: Gerrit Rudolph, Hesse, Germany
Normally, iridescence shows rather faint colours which can only be seen by covering the sun. On December 6, 2010, however, iridescence was visible in such a brightness and colourfulness in high level clouds that at first sight it rather looked like halo fragments than like iridescence. (1-2-3)
Manfred Nehonsky also observed extremely bright iridescence on high level foehn clouds over Upper Austria the same day. This iridescence looked like bright mother-of-pearl-clouds.
Another observation made the same day, but by mistake entitled as a halo, can be found here.
I think this is iridescence on globular ice particles as Paul J. Neiman and Joseph A. Shaw suggested in their article “Coronas and Iridescence in Mountain Wave Clouds Over Northeastern Colorado“.
Author: Claudia Hinz, Germany
Last Sunday,2009, March 28, I went up on the Magdalena Mountains (in central New Mexico) to pick up two instruments from the laboratory there, and saw what would qualify as Bishop’s ring around the sun for most part of the day. The mountain ridge lies at an altitude of about 10,500 feet above sea level. The sky was very clear and dry, and there was light wind at the time.
One of the photos I took is shown to the right. It was taken with a Nikon D700 with a 24-70/2.8 AF-S lens set at 24mm focal length and f/13 aperture.
To the eye the ring had a pronounced blue aureole with brown outer ring. I think the altitude of the observation rules out low-altitude aerosols being responsible. The central blueish aureole was relatively small; it was only a couple degrees in diameter. I estimate the radius of the outer brown ring to have been about 10 to 15 degrees.
Although the atmosphere was stable and quiet at the time I saw the ring, the southwest of the USA including New Mexico has had very strong winds and dust storms over the past week. In general, the spring months see many strong windstorms in this area. I believe the ring was caused by fine dust in the upper atmosphere and not from volcanic activity somewhere.
Posted by Harald Edens
On April 1st 2009, Peter Paul Hattinga Verschure observed beautiful pollen coronae from his garden in Deventer, The Netherlands. Every time the wind blew through the pine trees, a cloud of pollen was blown away from them. When these clouds of pollen passed exactly in front of the sun, a beautiful pollen corona appeared. So, in one second it was bright and had three rings, in the next moment it disappeared again.
While taking wildlife pictures in a nature reserve close to the Vienna, Austria, airport, Franz Kerschbaum noticed this 747 jet aircraft in a landing approach with a huge condensation cloud behind its wings. As it moved closer to the runway, he was evidently at just the right position for this shocking but beautiful artificial iridescent cloud to come into view. Iridescence and coronas are diffraction phenomena. The pastel or metallic colors result from deflection of sunlight about minute water droplets.
Photo details: Canon EOS 30D camera, 100-400 mm/4.5-5.6L lens at 400 mm and f/8.0