Iridescent Clouds

Look up at the clouds on the right day and you may catch a glimpse of a rainbow-like phenomenon known as cloud iridescence. These colors occur when sunlight is diffracted through small water droplets or ice crystals. For the effect to be apparent, the cloud must be optically thin, meaning that most of the rays of sunlight must pass through only a single droplet or ice crystal. This means the effect is usually visible only near the edges of clouds or as new clouds are forming. You can see more photos of the phenomenon here, and there’s a great video where cloud iridescence makes an appearance during a rocket launch in this previous entry.  (Photo credit and submission: C. Havlin)

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