Saturday, November 19, 2011



Flying back from California to New Jersey I had the window seat. And somewhere around Texas I saw a disk of light floating in the sky, keeping pace with our plane. A UFO perhaps? Maybe a top secret device out of Area 51? A Foo Fighter?

Nope. Just the sun. And ice crystals.

It is not obvious but there are thin clouds between the plane and the ground. Clouds composed of ice crystals, small hexagonal plates. And these plates act like tiny mirrors. When the conditions are right the mirrors line up and just like on the jet engine, reflect the sun.

This image of the sun is known as a subsun. Subsuns are essentially very compact solar pillars. Most are smeared, elongate, due to the fluttering of the crystals as they fall. But here the reflection is very round meaning the crystals very falling smoothly.

I've flown quite a bit and this is the first subsun I've seen. I doubt anyone else on the plane noticed it, mainly because they weren't looking. Which is a pity, because as a wise man once said, you can observe a lot by just looking.

(The wise man was Yogi Berra.)

1 comment:

Chesney said...

Creative shot...very, very cool! I learned something new too! :)