GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Local photographers can catch some of the most stunning scenes in Michigan. One shot in South Haven wasn’t just pretty but also rare. Sarah Stryd of Stryd Photography caught a phenomenon called sky-wide rays.
When she snapped it, she sent it in, asking how common it was. The answer is it’s not common at all.
At first glance, it appears Stryd only captured a picture at sunset on the beach of something called crepuscular rays. These shafts of light are fairly common and can be spotted at any time of the day when clouds come in between the viewer and the sun.
These beams of light can look quite magical and are most common at sunrise and sunset. In fact, the word “crepuscular” originates from the Latin word for “twilight” because they are most commonly spotted when the sun is low on the horizon.
The picture Stryd snapped also captures the less-common anti-crepuscular rays. These form directly opposite from the solar point in the sky (the solar point being the sun). This phenomenon is much less common than the classic crepuscular rays. These only can occur during dawn or dusk as the viewer must look exactly 180 degrees away from the sun to see them.
Anti-crepuscular rays form when the sunlight travels through the atmosphere during low-light hours and bounces back towards the viewer with shafts of shadow created by clouds in the way.
We rarely see crepuscular and anti-crepuscular rays connect clear across the sky. Atmospheric conditions must be exceptionally ideal for the light traveling from the solar point to be perfectly scattered back at the anti-solar point and hold true across the entire dome of the sky.
The next time you see crepuscular rays specifically at sunrise or sunset, turn your back to the sun and see if you can spot anti-crepuscular rays on the opposite horizon. Then, look directly up to see if you can catch a glimpse of an exceptionally rare optical phenomenon.