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EarthSky // Today's Image Release Date: Oct 20, 2013

Glory, seen from a hot air balloon

Eileen Claffey saw this glory – formed when water droplets in the air scatter light backwards – this past weekend, while riding in a hot air balloon.

View larger. | View from a hot air balloon by Eileen Claffey in Brookline, Massachusetts.  The shadow of the balloon, with a halo of light around it, is called a

View larger. | View from a hot air balloon by Eileen Claffey in Brookline, Massachusetts. The shadow of the balloon, with a halo of light around it, is called a “glory.” Thank you, Eileen!

EarthSky Facebook friend Eileen Claffey captured this image of a glory, while riding in a hot air balloon on October 19, 2013. You might sometimes see a glory from the window of an airplane, when the shadow of the plane falls on clouds below, and a halo of light surrounds the shadow. In this case, it’s the hot air balloon’s shadow in the center of the glory.

You’ll only see a glory when the sun is directly behind your head, but, in that circumstance, look for them whenever a mist or cloud is below you, illuminated by sunlight. According to the great website Atmospheric Optics:

Glories can be seen on mountains and hillsides, from aircraft and in sea fog and even indoors.

They are formed when light is scattered backwards by individual water droplets.

Notice in this photo that the basket handing below the balloon marks the center of the glory. That’s because glories, like rainbows, are individual; everyone sees their own individual glory, from their own perspective. In this case, Eileen has served as our “eyes,” and we see the glory from her perspective, that is, from the vantage point of the basket. If by some miracle of courage or physics, another person with a camera were riding on top of the balloon, we could see a different perspective on this glory, with the top of the balloon marking the center of the glory.

Read more about glories and other optical phenomena at the website Atmospheric Optics.

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