Optics in the Air: Observing Optical Phenomena through Airplane Windows

Optics in the Air: Observing Optical Phenomena through Airplane Windows
Author(s):    Joseph A. Shaw
Published:   2017
DOI:             10.1117/3.2263346
eISBN: 9781510607309  |  Print ISBN13: 9781510607293
Description:

Most naturally occurring optical displays can be seen from an airplane, and some are best viewed while airborne. This book is an introduction to optical phenomena in the natural world, primarily in the atmosphere (or “in the air”). It follows a simple approach that can be understood and enjoyed by readers without scientific training. A variety of optical phenomena are illustrated with photographs and explained with simplified line diagrams and descriptions.

These phenomena range from everyday sky and sunset colors to the elusive noctilucent clouds and aurora, as well as a whole world of too-often-ignored occurrences such as sun glitter patterns on bodies of water, colorful ringed glories and coronas, rainbows that cling to the clouds below a high-flying airplane, and ice halos that spring up as an airplane passes through high-altitude ice clouds.

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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).

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