Helio de Carvalho Vital sent these photos to us over the weekend, and wrote:
That the strong refraction next to the horizon flattens the image of the setting sun is no surprise to anyone. But what if the sun suddenly becomes shaped like a mushroom? Saturday evening [January 17, 2015], I took some photos of the sun setting over the Atlantic Ocean from Saquarema, a small city 100 km east of downtown Rio de Janeiro.
The local air temperature was 34°C but the seawater was only 21°C. Thus a layer of cooler air formed on the surface of the sea.
As sunlight crossed that layer to reach my camera, it underwent a complex series of refractions and reflections that severely distorted the image of the sun, making it acquire very unusual shapes.
A Canon Powershot SX60 HS was used for all the shots, taken at 21:39-41 UTC.
After sunset that same evening, Venus and Mercury appeared!
Bottom line: Series of images of Saturday night’s amazing sunset, seen over the Atlantic from a small town near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.