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.
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.