Here is the link to the online article:

Reader asks, “I’m in an airplane, it’s about to land, plane is above the cloud, it’s sunny, lookout the shady side of the plane, and see a round rainbow with the silhouette of the airplane in the center. What is this phenomenon called? I saw it once in Hawaii and once at Mitchell.”


The phenomenon this reader is referring to is called ‘glory’.  It can also be known as anthelion.  Glory happens when the plane is flying in the sunshine above the clouds and only if the sun is behind the vessel. The view is caused by diffraction of the sunlight. The rainbow is seen because the cloud droplets reflect the lights back to our eyes. The rings of color can vary in size and sometimes there may only be one ring while other times there are many.  The halo and the shadow of the plane are always seen together – as the circumstances must be just right. And what is being seen is called an anti-solar point, which is an imaginary point that is exactly opposite of the sun. The physics being the phenomenon are truly not understood and what is known is far beyond my scientific grasps. 


Before airplanes, this gorgeous view could only be seen by those who happened to be atop a mountain. In those days the sight was known to some as the heiligenschein or the Specter of the Brocken.


This phenomenon is quite complex for a simpleton like myself, but I found it to be very interesting and look forward to hopefully seeing one with my own eyes some day. 


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