“Glory” of the plane

Around the Thanksgiving week, I was in Haiti for 2 weeks to volunteer teaching honey bees there, with my son David.

On my way back from Haiti (Port au Prince) to Florida (Ft Lauderdale), on Nov. 28, 2011 (Black Friday!). I had a sudden urge to take some aerial photos.  First I sat on the very back row on the left side and took some shots using my D700. Then I was told that row was “blocked”, perhaps for stewardess and stewarders (?).  I was asked to sit on the right side, one row before the last. There was a lady near the isle. She was nice to let me in. At this time I only had my infrared modified camera and missed some really nice colored shots.  I brought back my D700 when she left for a restroom break. I was staring outside just to find something interesting to shoot.

Then, suddenly I saw a rainbow like circles surrounding a shadow of our own plane! very faint, very close to the window but I did see it right away…I started shoot it as this is rather rare.  I did 26 shots, here are a few.

Photos were adjusted a bit for saturation and contrast to enhance the color rings.

1. The first shot, very close to the window and I could have missed it if I did not pay attention to the left lower corner.

2.  the glory moved a bit further from the window.

3. The glory moves as as the plane was flying through the clouds. When the clouds are broken, the glory would be too as it needs a “screen” to project the entire circles and the plane shadow.

4.  Finally the glory is in the center of the frame of my camera.



7. This one is a rainbow, a very partial one.

So as you can see, “glory” is very different from rainbows.  Rainbows are very large so many people can see them. Glory is more personal as it is very close to the subject.  In my case I could have alerted the whole plane and most people on the right side window could have seen it though.  Rainbow appears in transparent air while glory is projected to clouds or fog.  But both are formed due to water/ice particles; and both require the observer to be in the middle between the sun and the effect (rainbow or glory).  Halo is different in that it appears in the same direction as the sun or moon (i.e. you are facing the light source to see a halo but you are facing away to see rainbow/glory).

I have only seen 360 degree rainbows twice. Once in the Niagara falls and once during a car wash…you have to be close to the water particles (so it is small) and  there should be no apparent horizon to “block” the lower half of the circle (Niagara falls).

The Chinese name for this is called “foguang” (佛光, Buddha’s light), perhaps it was only observed in high, foggy mountains where there are often Buddhists temples there.

Author: Zachary Huang

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