Cloud Shadows And Crepuscular Rays At Sunset

Taken by Helio C. Vital on January 6, 2017 at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


The photos show cloud shadows and crepuscular rays cast by distant cumulonimbus formations as the sun (at 4° altitude) was already hidden behind the Tijuca Peak some 23 minutes before sunset. As sunlight shed on clouds located at several distances, they acquired the filtered colors of the setting Sun. In addition, intricate sets of dark (cloud shadows) and bright yellow bands (crepuscular rays, see last photo) further added to the interesting display at sunset. Photos were taken at 21:17-21:20 UTC with a Canon PowerShot SX60 HS camera (in sunset auto mode, set at ISO 100, Exp.1/1000s, F5.0-5.6 and stacked-5/1).

Crepuscular rays /krᵻˈpʌskjᵿlər/ (also known as sunbeams, Angel lights, Sun rays or God rays), in atmospheric optics, are rays of sunlight that appear to radiate from the point in the sky where the sun is located. These rays, which stream through gaps in clouds (particularly stratocumulus) or between other objects, are columns of sunlit air separated by darker cloud-shadowed regions.

If you look opposite the direction of the sun, you might catch a glimpse of elusive anticrepuscular rays. These rays appear to converge towards the antisolar point – that is, the point on the sky opposite the sun. If you want to see them, remember these 3 tips:

1. Look in the direction opposite the sun, next time you see crepuscular rays extending from the horizon.

2. Look carefully. Remember that anticrepuscular rays are fainter and more elusive than crepuscular rays.

3. Watch around sunrise or sunset for anticrepuscular rays. That’s when they are are most frequently visible.

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How to see anticrepuscular rays


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