During my recent holiday I became even more obsessed than usual with clouds. Somehow I found my focus repeatedly drifting upwards throughout the day. I found myself a witness to events of colossal beauty and subtlety. And often nobody else seemed to be noticing: perhaps I will have to join the Cloud Appreciation Society.
The picture above shows a ‘Sun dog‘ a rainbow-like pattern caused by hexagonal ice crystals in high cirrus clouds. Sun dogs appear about 22 ° on either side of the Sun – use the wiki page or Google to see more spectacular pictures. But actually I am quite proud of this picture not least because after Stephanie spotted it – I think I infected her with cloud-fever – I had the gumption to stop the car and take a picture. The picture below shows a close up:
But I also took literally hundreds of photographs of other non-specific but – to me at least – breathtakingly beautiful cloud scenes. The images show a complexity and a subtlety that astounds me. For instance this evening I walked out the front door and took this picture showing delicate linear cloud structures.
Or this one – again taken this evening – showing cirrus clouds formed from contrails.
Seeing these celestial events reminds me of just what a breathtakingly beautiful world we are living in. And how it is possible to live most of a lifetime focussed on the ‘down to earth’ and to fail to notice even the grandest events taking place just above our eye-line.
I was e-mailed by the amazing Nick Day who suggested making a lifetime ‘I Spy’ list of celestial phenomena. Nick has seen all these:
- Secondary rainbow
- Supernumary rainbows
- Polarisation of rainbow
- Heidinger’s brushes
- Rainbow at sunset (very red biased)
- Alexander’s dark band
- 22-degree halo (sun)
- 22-degree halo (moon)
- Parhelic circle
- Circumzenithal arc (quite common but oft-overlooked as overhead)
- 46-degree halo (moon)
- Upper tangent arc (22-degree)
- Liljequist parhelion
- 46-degree halo (sun)
- Antihelic arcs of various descriptions
- Parry arcs
Now I need to find out what all these are!