Water falls, moonbow shines, aurorae glow

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Nov. 28 2011 7:00 AM

Water falls, moonbow shines, aurorae glow

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:

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

Advertisement

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:


TODAY IN SLATE

Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Propublica
Oct. 17 2014 4:21 PM Why the Poor Pay $1,400 for Old iPads #MuckReads: A weekly roundup of investigative reporting from ProPublica.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
  Life
Outward
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 1:54 PM Republican Midterm Debate Strategy: Be Pro-Life, But Not Anti-Abortion
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Oct. 17 2014 1:33 PM What Happened at Slate This Week?  Senior editor David Haglund shares what intrigued him at the magazine. 
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 19 2014 4:33 PM Building Family Relationships in and out of Juvenile Detention Centers
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 19 2014 7:30 AM Persistence Pays Off: The Smoking Trail of a Shooting Star
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.