How to see anticrepuscular rays

Next time you see crepuscular rays – sunrays – at sunrise or sunset, turn around.

Twilight sky, divided diagonally into pink and blue.

View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Jo-Ann Hem Lee in the community of Trincity – in the Caribbean island country of Trinidad and Tobago – captured this image at sunrise on October 9. 2020.

We’ve all seen crepuscular rays, or sunrays, converging on the sun. They appear as pillars of sunlight, all converging at a single point, streaming up from the horizon or down through gaps in clouds. Next time you see them … turn around.

If you look opposite the direction of the sun, you might catch a glimpse of elusive anticrepuscular rays. These rays appear to converge towards the antisolar point – that is, the point on the sky opposite the sun. If you want to see them, remember these three tips:

1. Look in the direction opposite the sun, next time you see crepuscular rays extending from the horizon.

2. Look carefully. Remember that anticrepuscular rays are fainter and more elusive than crepuscular rays.

3. Watch around sunrise or sunset for anticrepuscular rays. That’s when they are are most frequently visible.

Faint pink rays converging to a point above low twilit hills.

Scott Kuhn captured anticrepuscular rays as the moon was rising over Fort Mountain in northern Georgia.

Blue and pink rays converging to a dark line of twilight above brushy landscape.

Laura Bavetz wrote, “I have seen anticrepuscular rays before, but this is the first time that I have been able to capture them.”

Pink rays converging in twilight with a road going into the distance.

Helio C. Vital caught these anticrepuscular rays from Saquarema, 50 miles (80 km) east of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

White rays streaming through clouds with a flock of wild geese in flight.

Photo taken by Karl Diefenderfer in Quakertown, Pennsylvania.

Green and blue rays converging to horizon.

Photo via Kenneth G. Smith.

Wide white rays in a blue sky with small full moon halfway up in the sky and a pagoda on the right.

Jenney Disimon in Sabah, North Borneo, caught these anticrepuscular rays and a rising moon – and posted them to EarthSky Facebook – on June 4, 2015.

Pinky-gray rays converging on horizon with round bright full moon right in the center, all reflected in body of water.

A moonset in 2014. The sun is about to rise in the east, and these rays are seen in the west. Photo by Ted Schultz of Titusville, Florida.

Pink rays converging over white buildings on a hilltop with small moon visible.

Anticrepuscular rays seen in the east at sunset, in Bermuda, by our friend Le-ann Perry. Notice the rising moon. Also, look in the lower right of this photo, where you can see a bit of Earth’s shadow over the sea.

Wide light rays through sinister dark clouds over a mountain landscape.

Anticrepuscular rays – seen in the east at sunset – in Nevada. Shreenivasan Manievannan posted this photo on EarthSky Facebook in July 2014. Visit Shreeniclix Photography.

Rays converging under storm clouds to the right with a partial rainbow in the middle of the photo.

Our friend Joe Randall caught these anticrepuscular rays in August 2014.

Les Cowley of the great website Atmospheric Optics says:

Like crepuscular rays they are parallel shafts of sunlight from holes in the clouds and their apparently odd directions are a perspective effect. Think of a long straight road, it converges towards the horizon but turn around and it also converges to the opposite horizon. Crepuscular and anticrepuscular rays behave in the same way.

Anticrepuscular rays are not rare but they must be sought carefully. When ordinary crepuscular rays are visible, turn around and search for their opposite numbers.

See photo of crepuscular rays extending across the entire sky at Les Cowley’s website

Rays converging from above and below point of view in cloudy sky.

Anticrepuscular rays over the Pacific, viewed from an aircraft. Photo by Geoffrey A. Landis, September 11, 2007, via Wikimedia Commons.

Nearly vertical rays converging to horizon beyond a green field.

Anticrepuscular rays opposite the setting sun off the Florida Gulf Coast of the United States. Photo by Wojtow via Wikimedia Commons.

Slanted white rays converging to a pink and orange sunset.

Anticrepuscular rays by Guillaume “Astro GuiGeek” Doyen.

Blue sky over a town with rays emanating from the horizon.

View at EarthSky Community Photos. | On June 1, 2020, Tracey Gray captured anticrepuscular rays over Narrabeen in New South Wales, Australia.

Bottom line: If you want to see anticrepuscular rays, look carefully opposite the direction of the sun. They are most often seen at sunrise or sunset.

Deborah Byrd