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.

2014 February 19
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A Rainbow Pileus Cloud over Zimbabwe
Image Credit & Copyright: Peter Lowenstein

Explanation: Yes, but how many dark clouds have a multicolored lining? Pictured, behind this darker cloud, is a pileus iridescent cloud, a group of water droplets that have a uniformly similar size and so together diffract different colors of sunlight by different amounts. The above image was taken just before sunset when it was noticed by chance by a photographer in Murambi East, near Odzi Valley and the Mtanda Range of Zimbabwe. Also captured were unusual cloud ripples above the pileus cloud. The formation of a rare pileus cloud capping a common cumulus cloud is an indication that the lower cloud is expanding upward and might well develop into a storm. In this case, however, only a few minutes after the colorful cloud was noticed, it disappeared.

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