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Anticrepuscular rays: How to see them

Anticrepuscular rays: Panorama of mostly barren landscape and road with orange glow and higher dark blue sky.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Susan Kelley in Chatfield State Park, Colorado, took this image of the sunset, crepuscular and anticrepuscular rays and the Earth’s shadow on February 19, 2022. Susan wrote: “Saturday evening’s sunset (3-photo panorama) with crepuscular and anticrepuscular rays arcing over the sky. West (left side of image) sunset crepuscular rays appearing to converge on the sun. East (right side of image) much more dramatic anticrepuscular rays appearing to converge in the sky directly opposite the sun. Photo was taken from Chatfield State Park facing north toward Denver, Colorado.” Thank you, Susan!

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

Tips for seeing anticrepuscular rays

Landscape withh trees and clouds in the background. There are blue and orange lights, all of them reflected in the water.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Dennis Schoenfelder in Alamosa, Colorado, took this image on October 7, 2023, and wrote: “We were out walking our dog and just happened to see these anticrepuscular rays. We moved to a spot for a nice reflection.” Stunning! Thank you, Dennis.

To see anticrepuscular rays, you need to turn your back on the sunset. These rays appear to converge toward the antisolar point – that is, the point on the sky opposite the sun. If you want to see them, remember these three tips:

1. When you’re gazing at a beautiful sunset and see crepuscular rays, remember to look behind you to see if there are also anticrepuscular rays.

2. Look carefully, and wait a few minutes to see if they appear over time. Remember that anticrepuscular rays are generally fainter and more elusive than crepuscular rays.

3. You can see them at sunset, but you also can see them at sunrise. Just turn your back on the sun in either situation.

What are anticrepuscular rays?

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.

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 toward 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

Photo gallery

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.
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.
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.
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.

More photos

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.”
Slanted white rays converging to a pink and orange sunset.
Anticrepuscular rays by Guillaume “Astro GuiGeek” Doyen.

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.

November 1, 2023

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Deborah Byrd

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