Brocken Spectres, Glories, and Other Tricks of the Light

Recently a story has been circulating about a beam of light shining on a fallen veteran’s dog.

Was it a sign from above or a coincidence of a natural phenomenon?

Here are some other photographs of equally explainable light phenomenon in which some might see evidence of the supernatural or the extraterrestrial.

Here is a picture of the  the “Spectre of the Brocken“, so named because of sightings on the Brocken, the highest peak of Germany’s Harz Mountains.

The Brocken Spectre appears when a low sun is behind a climber who is looking downwards into mist from a ridge or peak. The “spectre” is the shadowy figure – the glow and rings are of course a glory centered directly opposite the sun at the antisolar point. But how is the ghostly figure produced? It is no more than the shadow of the climber projected forward through the mist. All shadows converge towards the antisolar point where the glory also shines.

The glory is formed due to the favored back-scattering of light by the small waterdrops. The radius of the glory is dependent on the size of the drops – the smaller the drops, the bigger the glory. If the mist has a distance of more than about 50 m you also can see the more extended fogbow. It is similar to a rainbow, but without any colour.

They have a bright centre but not nearly as bright as the corona’s aureole. Their rings are delicately coloured like those of the corona’s, blue on the inside changing through greens to red and purple outside. The ring intensities fall off much more slowly than those of the corona and sometimes three or even four rings are visible.

Glories can also appear indoors.

Light pillars are created as light shines through ice crystals

and are very often seen in cold weather.

When  looking at these amazing pictures it is easy to see how someone could imagine them having an otherworldly source. The truth is that they are all natural.

The natural world is so much more amazing than anything we could  dream up.

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