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Image: hackdaddy

Iridescent clouds

Howard Nemerov said “Nothing in the universe can travel at the speed of light, they say, forgetful of the shadow’s speed.” But what about the amazing effects and contrasts of light and dark. In their invisible race to the finish line, what effects or phenomena do they create? We decided to explore 20 of the most stunning images for your viewing pleasure, such as incredible ice and water refractions, natural fireworks and light displays and piercing rays and solemn shadows.


Image: Todd_Sackmann

Ice and Water Refractions

Circumhorizontal Arc

Also known as a ‘fire rainbow’ these streaks of colour are created when light is refracted through ice crystals in cirrus clouds. The phenomenon is especially rare as both the ice crystals and sun must be oriented in exact horizontal alignment to create the effect. This particularly dramatic example was captured in the sky over Spokane, WA, in 2006.

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Image: E64

Brocken Spectre

As the sun shines from behind a climber or other object at altitude their shadow is projected through the upper surfaces of clouds, creating a curiously magnified triangular shape. The effect is often seen in conjunction with the glowing rings of a glory (Heiligenschein) – rings of coloured light that appear directly opposite the sun when sunlight is reflected by a cloud of uniformly-sized water droplets. It takes its name from the frequent fogs and low-altitude accessibility of the Brocken peaks in Germany, a region in which it is often witnessed.

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