Author Archives: ch

3rd and 4th order rainbows

Last evening (11 June 2011) thunderstorms approached my home town Schiffdorf near Bremerhaven in Northern Germany. I went to a field road by car to take some photos of the storm clouds. Just after I had arrived (about 18:00 UTC), heavy rain started which lasted for nearly 20 minutes. To my disappointment, the rain covered the gust front and most of the interesting features of the storm. So I waited and hoped that the sun would come out soon and produce some nice rainbows. When it did I realized that the dark clouds covered the sky to the right of the Sun – just the situation Michael Großmann had had when he took the the first image of a 3rd order rainbow only four weeks ago. I decided to try this out as well. Instead of one image I took sequences of five to stack them and, thus, increase the signal-to-noise ratio. I hoped this would increase my chances to detect the 3rd order bow. I took the images from my car through the open window to protect my camera (Canon 40D) from the rain. Visually, I did not see a 3rd order rainbow. However, in my back, the 1st and 2nd order bow developed nicely.

Back home I converted the raw images to 16-bit-Tiff and stacked them in Photoshop. Adjusting saturation already showed the 3rd order bow in the image sequences taken between 18:17 and 18:22 UTC (first image).  Applying unsharp masking revealed something unexpected in one of the stacked images (from 18:19 UTC): There seemed to be another rainbow close to the 3rd order bow, but, with reversed colors (second image). I checked Les Cowley’s website and realized that my image likely showed the 4th order rainbow!

After some more sophisticated processing including denoising (Neat Image), unsharp masking and increasing saturation, the 3rd and 4th order rainbows both were clearly visible. Finally, I created a composite using masks to retain the natural look of the foreground while still showing the 3rd and 4th order rainbows (third image).

Author:  Michael Theusner, Bremerhaven, Germany

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Goat Willow Seed Corona

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 (123), but from time to time a colourful corona appeared in the seeds.

Author: Gerrit Rudolph, Hesse, Germany

Ice particle iridescence?

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. (123)

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

Heavy Thunderstorm Sprites above Czech Republic

On May 26, 2011, Martin Popek filmed sprites above an area with heavy thunderstorms preceding a cold front in Nydek (Eastern part of Czech Republic) with its video camera (Watec 902h2 ultimate + lens 8/1,3). The radar map (12) shows the position of the observer and the approaching thunderstorm front.

More stills and the videos can be found here (123).

High order bows

A rainbow is a product of millions of falling raindrops interacting with sunlight. A single reflection form the primary bow, a double reflection forms the secondary bow. However, under ideal conditions there can be many more orders of reflection. As shown above, five, six and even ten internal reflections can be observed. Moreover, it’s theoretically possible to detect twenty internal reflections, but the problem is to produce a perfectly spherical water droplet. The drops I used for this experiment were formed artificially. The light source is a 5 mW green laser pointer. Note that the bright spot at left center is the laser illuminated water drop.

The third and fourth order reflections aren’t shown here because they, along with the seventh and eighth order reflections, are positioned on the other side of the picture in the direction of the light source. The primary and secondary bows will be viewed in the direction you’re facing opposite the sun The fifth, sixth, ninth, and tenth order reflections are also in this direction. However, the third and fourth (as well as the seventh and eighth) order reflections can’t be seen because they’re behind you.

Under exceptional atmospheric conditions it may be feasible to see the third and fourth order bows if you’re facing the sun, but they’re quite faint. A third order bow, for instance, is one quarter as bright as a primary bow. A fifth order rainbow is only about one tenth as intense as the primary bow.

If you need more information about the experiments with high order bows, you can read this pdf.

Nikon D40X, focal length 18mm, 100 ISO, 2,5 sec. at f/6,3

Author: Michael Großmann, Kämpfelbach, Germany

Rays across the sky

The photo features an array of anticrepuscular-rays as observed in Kämpfelbach near Karsruhe, Germany on July 31, 2010. I will never forget this sight. Sunset was fast approaching, and I first noticed faint crepuscular-rays above the western horizon. Just after sundown, the rays could be seen stretching across the sky from west to east. On this photo montage, east is at left center and west at far right. This display lasted for about ten minutes. To add to the show, the rosy glow of Earth’s rising shadow (belt of venus) and the shadow band itself were visible just above the eastern horizon (left center). These anticrepuscular and crepuscular rays were cast by clouds below the western horizon. Viewing perspective makes the rays seem to converge toward the horizon; though, they’re actually parallel.

Photo details: Nikon D40x camera; 16 pictures in vertical-order; focus length 18 mm; F/3.5; 1/60 second exposure time; ISO 100.

Posted by Michael Großmann, Germany

Dew bow

The photo above showing a sprightly dew bow was captured in a moist field crop at Kämpfelbach Germany on the night October 22, 2010. Since the photo was taken at night, the illuminating source is the almost full moon which is directly opposite of the dew bow at the anti-lunar point. The mechanics of a dew bow are similar to that of a rainbow. Moonlight is refracted and reflected within the dew drops. The city lights in the background are Karlsruhe.

Photo details: Canon EOS 450D camera; F/4; focal length 8 mm; ISO 100; exposure time 30 seconds; 3 photos stitched together.

Posted by Michael Großmann

Discontinuous rainbow

This is an older observation (from last year). I made it at the Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research on a mountaintop in central New Mexico, USA at about 10,500 feet altitude above MSL.

The photos look to the east-northeast. The rainbow occurs in a storm that is receding and drifting to the east and has just passed Sawmill Canyon in the foreground. The mountain ridge on the photo is called Timber Ridge, and most of the heavier rainfall is on the other side of that. The much finer, mist-like droplets near the trailing end of the storm are still falling in the canyon and create a rainbow that has a smaller radius and is a little wider than an ‘ordinary’ bow that occurs in larger raindrops. The effect is very obvious but requires a fairly specific landscape setting to be seen.

The photos were taken on July 27, 2009 using a Nikon D700 camera. Times below are local time (MDT).


Photo 1: The effect is just beginning to occur. 18:37:50 pm, 36 mm focal length, ISO 800, 1/160 sec at f/6.3.


Photo 2: Effect strongest. 18:43:17 pm, 38 mm focal length, 800 ISO, 1/250 sec at f/8.


Photo 3: The rainbow in canyon is disappearing and still shows a discontinuity. Also note that the ‘foot’ of the rainbow beyond the canyon is not following the circle but appears to kink – i.e. the radius is getting larger at lower altitude – maybe due to drops coalescing and increasing in size as they fall? 18:45:11 pm, 48 mm focal length, 200 ISO, 1/125 sec at f/5.6.

All three photos have not been cropped, modified or enhanced in any way.

Posted by Harald Edens

Bird Feather Iridescence

While taking a walk through the surroundings of my home on February 20, 2010, I took the most of the nice weather by taking some last winter photographs. At 10:09:27 CET, a small covey of about 15 siskins (Carduelis spinus) flew off an alder in front of me and passed me to the right. Seen from my position, they directly passed in front of the sun. I took some photographs with my Sony DSLR-A 700 and a Minolta lens 4/300 mm. The exposure time was 1/8000 second at an aperture of 32 and ISO 200.

Further settings of the camera were: Programme, serial photographs, automatic white balancing, and integral measurement stressed on the centre of the picture. In the original photograph, the sun is almost at the centre of the photograph. The precedent image of the series was exposed for about 1/4000 second at an aperture of 16.

That picture is brighter (a small part of the sun can be seen at the right rim of the photograph!) and the iridescence in the feathers looks rather faint.

Author: Rene Winter, Eschenbergen, Germany

Influences of the Mt. Eyjafjallajökull eruption on the atmosphere

In the morning of April 11, Mt. Eyjafjallajökull, a volcano which is covered by a glacier, erupted in the southwest of Iceland. Its cloud of ashes rises up to altitudes of 10 – 12 kms and has been shifted towards Central Europe by a northerly airstream since Thursday (animation).

The ash particles are slowly sinking downwards in the air, obstructing aviation in many places. In the atmosphere they dim the light (photos C. Hinz 123) and make Bishop´s Ring visible (photo P. Krämer), which is caused by light refraction on the aerosoles.

In high levels of the atmosphere, the particles act as additional nuclei for condensation, on which humidity (which under normal circumstances is not sufficient for cloud formation) freezes and forms ice crystals generating so-called “Invisible Cirrus Clouds”. Size and/or density of the ice crystals is in most cases not high enough to make the clouds visible, but their existence can be proved by the formation of faint halos such as sun pillars (photo Ina Rendtel), sundogs (photo Reinhard Nitze), or the 22°-halo (photo Brigitte Rauch).

There are still doubts regarding the appearance of the colourful twilight effects known from the eruption of Mt. Sarychev. Measurements with a Lidar effected by the Hohenpeissenberg Meteorological Observatory have shown that most of the aerosoles are at altitudes between 3.000 and 7.000 meters. A heavy rainshower should be enough to wash them out of the atmosphere and make the air clean again. An elevated concentration of sulphuric acid, which after the eruption of Mt. Sarychev formed several layers at different altitudes and caused beautiful purple light and afterglow effects, has not been measured at all. Probably the SO2 ejected by Mt. Eyjafjallajökull is chemically combined to water at the moment when the ash cloud is formed. The explosions, however, are generated by the contact of lava with ice, and every time a part of the glacier falls into the lava, there is plenty of water provided for such a reaction.

Authors: Claudia Hinz, Peter Krämer and Wolfgang Hamburg