Polarized fogbow in car headlights

I spent the past summer at Langmuir Laboratory on the Magdalena Mountains, in southwest-central New Mexico (USA) at an elevation of 3.2 km. The purpose of this was thunderstorm research. The monsoon here was unusually wet and on several days and nights the mountain laboratory was actually foggy. This is relatively rare considering the New Mexico climate. I took this opportunity to view polarized fogbows in my car”s headlights, and on September 2nd, I was particularly successful.

When I programmed a Mie simulation algorithm late last year and plotted a polarized fogbow on my screen, I was surprised that the polarized bow looked as it did, with the typical Brewster”s angle ”gap” in the main bow for parallel polarization. How excited I was to see that the actual fogbow indeed looked like the simulation! I had never seen it before in nature.

I am sure this has been done before by someone else, but I thought I would post the images anyway.

I covered up one of the car”s headlamps as to not have a double bow. I positioned myself about 50 meters in front of the truck, which I had parked on a slight inclination so the bow would be better visible against a featureless sky and be more complete. The fisheye lens was equipped with a polarizer at the place in the lens where the rays go parallel.

The simulation I made earlier, for a 10 micrometer radius droplet. It looks sharper because I assumed a point light source, assumed a monodisperse droplet distribution, and it was not divergent light. It is not a perfect match either considering the placement of the supernumeraries: probably the droplets in the actual display were a bit smaller. Because of the divergent light source, and because I don”t know the distance to the truck accurately, I doubt I will ever be able to accurately tell the actual droplet radii in the display.

The polarized glory was also obvious, but my shadow was blocking most of the part that was most polarized. I am including the unpolarized glory here.

The close-ups of the polarized and unpolarized fogbow were made with a 24mm/2.8 lens. The camera was a Canon 300d (modified version – i.e. with IR filter removed). I did not need to adjust the brightness and contrast much to get the results as displayed here. The fogbow had good contrast by itself.

About 10 days later I documented a natural fogbow in sunlight from the laboratory, through a polarizer. I photographed that with film; I have not processed those photos yet.

[Posted by Harald Edens]


Posted on May 14, 2011, in glory and spectre of Brocken, observations, rainbow and fogbow, theory and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Marko Riikonen said…

    Amazing stuff! I was about to post more water film phenomena, but guess I let it be for a while to keep you posting on top.

  2. Michael Ellestad said…

    Wow Harald nice one I got nice fogbow on the first of November 2005 and had 3 supernummery arcs

  3. Günther Können said…

    Nice pictures, Harald. It is interesting to compare the ””polarized fogbow”” pictures with those of Alexander Wunsche, posted here:


  4. Claudia Hinz said…

    Wow, this are the best polarized pictures which I””ve ever seen!!! Genial!

  5. Hey while photographing my first fog bows I realized by going right under the source of light that you can be almost 2 ft away and see the fog bow. You have to be at the right angle to see it though. I’m not sure if anyone else have discovered this yet but I havent read anything about it at all from anyone who has taken photos of fog bows. They always say you have to be 50ft or yards away to see it but I can view from just 2 ft away if I go under my head lights.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: