During the reading break, I took a trip to Las Vegas. While flying over Nevada I was looking out of the window enjoying the sights of the mountains and desert lands near death valley. In all the flights I’ve taken over the years, I’ve never seen what I was seeing. As we flew above some light clouds I started seeing a rainbow appear, but not any rainbow, this one was circular. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I started to make out the shadow in the center and realized that it was the shadow of our plane in the center of this circular rainbow!

Picture taken of a glory from an airplane of the Nevada desert near Las Vegas
A picture I captured of a glory from the airplane window above the Nevada desert.

According to Paula Ferreira (2022), turns out that this is a rare optical phenomenon that is called a glory. Usually only seen in the right conditions and up high on a mountain or from an airplane. From a mountain, you usually see the observer’s head as the shadow. This phenomenon is caused by the sunlight interacting with water droplets (mist or clouds).

Glory encountered during a hike in An Teallach, Scotland Date: 2005-08 Author: AndiW
Glory encountered during a hike in An Teallach, Scotland https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glory_(optical_phenomenon) Date: 2005-08 Author: AndiW

Or more scientifically speaking, glories appear because of wave interference of light internally refracted within small droplets. Much like how you played with prisms in science class in high school, that is how you get certain colours from white light bouncing off the water droplets. In other words, it’s complicated, but if you would like to learn more about them you can read about it here. I hope someday you get to discover one of your own while adventuring. It is quite amazing to witness.


Ferreira, P. (October 5, 2022). “The glory: the science behind a rare optical phenomenon” Retrieved from https://www.zmescience.com/science/physics/the-glory-the-science-behind-a-rare-optical-phenomenon/

Wikipedia (March 24, 2023). “Glory (optical phenomenon)” Retrieved from. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glory_(optical_phenomenon)

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