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WEATHER U: Shedding some light on crepuscular rays

A sight like this one can take your breath away. The crepuscular rays are not often this pronounced so we’re grateful that Cynthia Peach snapped the photo and share it with us. This stunning evening sky was admired by many in Glace Bay, N.S. last Wednesday.
A sight like this one can take your breath away. The crepuscular rays are not often this pronounced so we’re grateful that Cynthia Peach snapped the photo and share it with us. This stunning evening sky was admired by many in Glace Bay, N.S. last Wednesday. - Contributed

The first time I saw these heavenly rays was on a tiny prayer card my mom gave me when I was eight. I still have it and carry it with me in my wallet.

I remember being fascinated by the shafts of light radiating through the clouds. For many years, I heard people refer to them as God’s Rays but it wasn’t until many years later I learned these shafts of light have a name. They are crepuscular rays, so named because they most often occur during crepuscular hours. When atmospheric conditions are just right, the beams of light can be seen early in the morning or late in the day. These rays radiate from the point in the sky where the sun is located.

Rays of light can change direction when they encounter small particles suspended in the atmosphere; this is called scattering. A cloud between you and the sun can block some but not all of the sun’s light. Where the light peeks through, scattering illuminates its path from the sun to your eyes. This creates beams in the sky.

These beams appear to converge toward the sun, but that’s just an illusion; in fact, the rays are parallel. Have you ever looked down a railroad track and noticed the tracks seem to converge off in the distance? That’s an illusion; we know and hope they remain parallel.

So much beauty, backed by science...



Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network.

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