The Northern Lights are the envy of many after-dark photographers who haven’t yet caught sight of them. They make for beautiful, other-worldly images. However, there are plenty of other awe-inspiring happenings in the nighttime sky for photographers to seek out.
Finnish photographer Pauli Hanninen shot this almost mystical photograph of his family gazing at the sky on the outskirts of Sirkka village, near Levi fell. He and his family were lucky enough to witness the convergence of several somewhat rare phenomena. The effects in the sky are caused by events that occur only very particular conditions when the moon is full or nearly full and ice crystals form in the atmosphere.
Though the halo effect, arcs, and bright lights in the sky might appear supernatural, or even fake, they aren’t all that out of the ordinary in some parts of the world. The bright dots in the sky are known as moon dogs, or in scientific terms, paraselenae. They are caused by moonlight hitting ice crystals that form inside cirrus clouds. The halos and arcs are additional optical phenomena caused by ice crystals in the atmosphere.
Next time you stay indoors on a moonlit night, imagine the photos you could be missing. There are dozens of types of night sky events that can be explained by concepts of atmospheric optics, but sometimes the wonder they create in photographs overshadows the logical explanations.
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