Tag: moonbow

Moonbow, Milky Way, meteor

By Phil Plait | October 21, 2012 7:00 am

If you’ve read this blog before, then all I really need to tell you is that Thierry Legault took a picture.


While in Queensland, Australia, Thierry took this shot of Wallaman Falls. While the Milky Way shone down, a meteor zipped past, adding to the drama. But what’s that at the bottom? A rainbow? At night?

Yup. Well, kinda. It’s a Moonbow, the same thing as a rainbow but with the Moon as the light source. Well, and it’s not raindrops that cause it, but aerosolized water droplets acting as little prisms, breaking the light up into the usual colors. Moonbows are very faint, but they show up in long exposures like this one.

Leave it to Thierry to not be satisfied with just our galaxy, a bit of interplanetary debris vaporizing, and a waterfall in his shot. Amazing.

He has more pictures from that trip, and yeah, you want to see them. His photos have been on this blog so many times I can’t even list them, but check out the Related Posts below, click the links, then click the links at the bottom of those posts (or you can use my search engine). It’s a journey that’ll widen your eyes.

[UPDATE: Thanks to pixguyinburbank on Twitter, I learned of a wonderful video about moonbows put out by the folks at Yosemite National park in the US. It’s so good I’ll just add it here so you can see it. Fantastic!


Image credit: Thierry Legault, used by permission.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Water falls, moonbow shines, aurorae glow

By Phil Plait | November 28, 2011 7:00 am

Some pictures really go the extra mile (1.6 kilometers) when capturing the beauty of nature. This picture, by Stephane Vetter, goes even farther than that:

How about that? There’s so much to see in this picture from southern Iceland (and click to embiggen and get the amazing and beautiful details).

First, I love the waterfall; in time exposures the frothy water takes on an almost satin-like quality, silky, milky, and smooth. It can be hard to get long time exposures during the day, but in this case the water was lit by the Moon at night!

But wait a sec: if it’s night, why is there a rainbow?

There isn’t! That’s a moonbow, caused by aerosolized water droplets at the base of the falls hanging in the air and acting like little prisms, bending the moonlight and splitting it into its colors. Moonbows are pretty faint, so it takes a time exposure like this to be able to discern them clearly.

Looking up, you can also see some stars — the Big Dipper is just above the rocks on the left — as well as the faint green glow of the aurorae. All in all, there’s a little bit of everything in this picture… well, almost everything.

It’s amazing what you can see if you just go out and look. I don’t like to use the word magic, because it’s burdened with meaning that is the exact opposite of science, but really the term "magical" might be appropriate here. In that sense, it triggers our wonder and sense of beauty, our awe of nature. That’s precisely what I feel when I see pictures like this. It can be beautiful outside, so go see.

Image credit: by Stephane Vetter, used by permission. Tip o’ the lens cap to APOD.

Related posts:

Ring around the Moon
Polarized rainbow, what does this mean???
Halo, how ya doin’
naked rainbows

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: aurora, Moon, moonbow, waterfall

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