Sunday, 10 January 2010

An Iridescent Cloud

On Saturday afternoon we were returning home from our local feed store. Our hay stocks are running low, the hay merchant cannot get to us because of the icy lanes and we needed to buy haylage to supplement what little we have left. As we drove across the high ridge of land to the east of Hightown Common, we saw a strange and beautiful sunset in the icy sky.

The sun was sinking in the west, behind the long curves of the distant Purbeck hills. The pale blue-grey and apricot sky showed thin streaks of high, icy clouds. To the right of the sunset, a seeming gap in the clouds began to shine with bright rainbow colours. Just a little patch of rainbow cloud and definitely not a bow of colour.

Looking up this phenomenon when we arrived home, we discovered that we had seen a rare iridescent cloud. Google images show many different and beautiful examples from around the world. Wikipedia describes the iridescent cloud as a "diffraction phenomenon".

Small crystals of ice in the cloud are individually scattering the light shining through them from the setting sun.Wikepedia continues:

"If parts of the cloud have crystals of a similar size, the cumulative effect is seen as colours."

Photograph taken using the "sunset" setting on my camera.

Using the automatic setting. The iridescent cloud is less visible in this shot but was quite startling to the naked eye. We were not the only people who pulled over into the hill top car park to take photographs.

Cloud and sunset across a snow covered Hightown Common, towards Bournemouth, Poole Bay and the Purbeck Hills beyond.


rachel said...

Astonishing and beautiful! How I long to move back to somewhere with 'big skies'!

ChrisJ said...

That is amazing. How wonderful that you were able to see it and be one of few who have.