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Crepuscular rays from above and below

Yesterday there were observations of spread Crepuscular rays over Germany. The satellite image shows the origin of the long shadows: a powerful squall line over northwest Germany. The length of the shadows is about 400km – this is enormous!


Near Pforzheim in Baden-Württemberg Michael Großmann observed rays passing from the setting sun to the antisolar point. Rene Winter was in the district Gotha, Thuringia and saw crepuscular rays that were unusual intensively. Laura Kranich in Kiel wasn’t far away from the thunderstorms and had intense Crepuscular rays, too. There were single beams that ran across the entire sky.

Crepuscular rays are rays of sunlight that appear to radiate from the point in the sky where the sun is located. These rays, which stream through gaps in clouds (particularly stratocumulus) or between other objects, are columns of sunlit air separated by darker cloud-shadowed regions. Despite seeming to converge at a point, the rays are in fact near-parallel shafts of sunlight, and their apparent convergence is a perspective effect (similar, for example, to the way that parallel railway lines seem to converge at a point in the distance).

The name comes from their frequent occurrences during twilight hours (those around dawn and dusk), when the contrasts between light and dark are the most obvious. Crepuscular comes from the Latin word “crepusculum”, meaning twilight.

Shadows in sunward direction

Every day one can see shadows pointing away from the sun, but in rare cases there are also shadows visible in sunward direction. These shadows are projected against the sky. Seeing those spooky phenomena requires a low sun elevation, a high object which seems to tower above the sun, and a transparent “screen” of fog between the observer and the object. In the morning of September 11, 2013, Ulf Köhler observed such a phenomenon on the Hoher Peißenberg (998m). The shadow of the dome of the Mariä Himmelfahrt Pilgrimage Church appeared in passing wafts of mist. When Ulf Köhler changed his position within the shadow of the steeple, the shadow of the dome also changed its appearance. (12).

Another article on this topic: “Düsseldorf Leaning Tower and other Shadow Plays”

Düsseldorf Leaning Tower and other Shadow Plays

On November 16, 2010, Hans Juergen Heyen had a rather “spooky” day in Düsseldorf. “A short time after noon I took a walk along the river Rhine and wanted to shoot some photographs. In the beginning, the sky was completely clear except some mist, but at about 14 hours some ragged clouds came up which lowered down to about 100 metres above the ground. The clouds were followed by a mixture of fog, sunshine and clouds which in this area (Lower Rhine region, about 45 metres above sea level) is very uncommon. Also the frequent change between a nearly closed layer of stratus clouds and blue sky was rather strange.
A great help for evaluating the situation was the Rheinturm, a TV tower which is about 240 metres high and has a restaurant with an inclined bank of windows at about 180 metres. This tower disappeared and reappeared between the fog and clouds causing some shadow plays and reflections which were rather irritating for the observer. Sometimes even phantoms of the tower appeared. The tower quasi became an actor in this weather phenomenon. Some time ago, I witnessed a similar phenomenon at the same place, which at that time had turned out considerably fainter. But this time, the phenomenon lasted for about two hours. It just seemed as if the Cllerk of the Weather had been sitting in a pub in Düsseldorf Altstadt and lost the control about his remote weather control while drinking the famous Altbier, a very popular kind of beer in Düsseldorf. For people interested in weather phenomena, it was a really gorgeous afternoon”.

Two main phenomena were visible: When the sun was beside the tower, it caused reflections in the bank of windows around the tower restaurant projecting shadow rays onto the wall of fog. This was a kind of reflected anticrepuscular rays (1234).

Later, when the sun was almost behind the tower, another strange shadow play became visible. Contrary to what is usual, the shadow of the tower was not on the side of the tower which points away from the sun, but in direction towards the sun. This was because the observer was now postitioned in the diffuse shadow of the tower. Normally he should now see the shadow behind himself on the ground. But as the droplets of the wafts of mist formed a kind of screen in front of and below the top of the tower, the shadow of the tower was now displayed on the fog.

Sometimes the shadow was displayed on several layers of fog forming multiple images [12].
When the sun is positioned directly behind the tower, only the upward projection of the tower top is visible, being cast upon ragged clouds above the tower by the low autumn sun. More pictures 123456

Shadows on ice crystals

During the cold spell in the middle of January, some of us in Hungary started “experimenting” with snow crystals. As surface halos had been observed for several consecutive days (see the images of the odd radius surface halos by Ákos Ujj: 1 – 2 ), our basic idea was to find out whether we would see the trace of the 22 degree halo if we simply threw up the snow crystals covering the ground. Interestingly, the answer was yes. It was really exciting to observe that 22° from the sun, the crystals were glittering in spectral colours, and they faintly drew the form of the halo. Unfortunately, I was not so lucky with photographing the effect. All I could capture was the streetlamp casting its shadow on the crystals thrown and kicked in the air by Alexandra Farkas.

In the evening, however, Károly Vicián was much more successful. He had similar methods, but with longer exposure time, he did not only manage to photograph the shadow of the broom that was used to cover the spotlight, but the halo thus forming, too.

Posted by Ágnes Kiricsi