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Reflections, refractions and ghosts in the atmosphere

Astronomers sometimes curse the first few miles of our atmosphere. However, its rain, clouds, mists, dust and temperature inversions produce a whole host of visual optical effects. We might think of the rainbow as familiar but it still holds mysteries. Ice crystals produce sundogs and intricate halo displays. Diffraction from sunlight playing on the water droplets of mists and fogs is writ large in the sky as coronae and glories. The air itself gives us complex miraged sunsets and green flashes. The explanation of this optical laboratory in the sky challenged Descartes, Newton and Huygens and aspects continue to do so today. This talk will describe some of these spectacles, where to look for them, how they form and show rarities pictured around the world. Finally it will touch on examples from other worlds. Cloudy skies have their moments.

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About Les Cowley

Les Cowley is a chemical physicist by training and has researched intermolecular forces, dynamics of chemical reactions and combustion phenomena. But on one winter’s afternoon in the 1970s he was dragged outside from all that to see an ice halo display. The sky was seemingly webbed and criss-crossed with delicate arcs. He did not know their names nor how they had formed but he was hooked. He now researches atmospheric phenomena and spreads this once-esoteric interest via websites and writings.

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