Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2008 June 10
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A Fire Rainbow Over New Jersey
Credit & Copyright: Paul Gitto (Arcturus Observatory)

Explanation: What is that inverted rainbow in the sky? Sometimes known as a fire rainbow for its flame-like appearance, a circumhorizon arc is created by ice, not fire. For a circumhorizon arc to be visible, the Sun must be at least 58 degrees high in a sky where cirrus clouds are present. Furthermore, the numerous, flat, hexagonal ice-crystals that compose the cirrus cloud must be aligned horizontally to properly refract sunlight like a single gigantic prism. Therefore, circumhorizon arcs are quite unusual to see. Pictured above, however, a rare fire rainbow was captured above trees in Whiting, New Jersey, USA in late May.

Tomorrow's picture: space robot

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