Look! In the sky, it’s Superman, no it’s a bird! No, it’s a plane

Contrail_Geoff Wyatt

With these beautiful clear winter days we get plenty of calls about golden “comets” in the early morning or late afternoon. Sadly these celestial delights are nothing more that plane condensation trails reflecting the unscattered longer wavelength light from the sun.

As the sun rises and sets the Earth’s atmosphere scatters lots of the short wavelength light (mainly blue) away in many different directions. This leaves the longer yellow, orange and red wavelengths to travel straight through to us making the sky reddish.

A plane flying at several km up and its cloud trail thens reflects these golden colours toward us and they appear as distant slow moving comets.

Here are two pictures I took on July 7th 2006 showing this phenomenon and above is one earlier photo of the same event overhead using a telephoto lens so you can actually see the plane causing the cloud.

Not a comet1_Geoff Wyatt

Not a comet2_Geoff Wyatt

One response to “Look! In the sky, it’s Superman, no it’s a bird! No, it’s a plane

  • OT:
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