Interesting Photo of the Day: C-17 Wingtip Vortices Through Countermeasures

When you look at this photo, you may think, how was this photographed? Was this just a lucky capture? What you’re seeing in this photo is actually two different phenomena. The first is the unique smoke pattern caused by a plane deploying its flares. These smoke shapes left behind are often referred to as “smoke angels.” The second phenomenon is the existence of wingtip vortices which can only be seen in the presence of smoke or a similar substance. The vortices appear as spiral patterns produced as a result of the plane creating lift:

c-17 plane wingtip vortices smoke flare angels

The wingtip vortices are the spiral shapes seen in the flare smoke. (Via Wikipedia, Click to View Full Size)

The combination of these two create an interesting ghost-like figure. The formation doesn’t stay for very long. The vortices quickly disappear and the smoke eventually fades. But for a moment, a unique subject is born, reminding us that there are many moments that happen suddenly and unexpectedly, and many of these things to not remain for very long.

So as for this being a lucky capture, perhaps the photographer happened to be in the right place at the right time. But he or she was also prepared, camera in hand, ready to capture an unexpected moment.

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