Phenomena

Sunset Vortices

Often our atmosphere’s transparency masks the beautiful flows around us. This spectacular image shows a flight landing in Munich just after sunrise. Low-hanging clouds get sliced by the airplane’s passage and curl into its wake. The swirls are a result of the plane’s wingtip vortices, which wrap from the high-pressure underside of the wing toward the low-pressure upperside. The vortices stretch behind in the plane’s wake, creating turbulence that can be dangerous to following planes. In fact, these vortices are a major determining factor in the frequency of take-off and landing on a given runway. The larger a plane, the larger its wingtip vortices and the more time it takes for the turbulence of its passage to dissipate to a safe level for the next aircraft. (Image credit: T. Harsch; submitted by Larry S.)

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