This book is about learning to see. Specifically, it is about learning to see the rich array of colors and optical effects that occur in nature and can be seen by an informed and alert passenger in an airplane. I hope to make your travel time more exciting and also to help you learn a little bit about the optical world that surrounds us. Most naturally occurring optical displays can be seen from an airplane, and some are even best seen in the air. However, your ability to appreciate and recognize optical phenomena will be enhanced if you know where and when to look and what to expect.
In this spirit of learning to see and understand, the primary objectives of this book are to (a) show examples of what can be seen from an airplane and (b) provide simple explanations to motivate and inform you about how to observe light and color in nature. This book expands upon earlier papers by Shaw and others, and an earlier book by Wood. More advanced details about the science of each phenomenon can be gathered from Les Cowley’s Atmospheric Optics website, multiple books, and articles from the feature journal issues produced after each international conference on light and color in nature (held approximately every three years).