Brocken Spectre


Don't keep your head in the clouds or forget that all is an illusion.

The photo below looks like a scene from Burning Man - but it's not.

It's just another illusion called ...

Brocken Spectre   NASA - August 23, 2014

The city of Veszprem, Hungary was only briefly haunted by this mysterious spectre. On the morning of August 11, its monstrous form hovered in the mist above municipal buildings near the town center. A clue to its true identity is offered by the photographer, though, who reports he took the picture from the top of a twenty story building with the rising Sun directly at his back. That special geometry suggests this is an example of an atmospheric phenomenon called the Glory or sometimes "the Spectre of the Brocken". Also seen from mountain tops and airplanes when looking opposite the Sun, the dramatic apparition is the observer's shadow on clouds or fog, the small droplets of water scattering light back towards the Sun through complex internal reflections. Careful night sky watchers can also encounter this spectre's analog in astronomy, a brightening of zodiacal light opposite the Sun known as the gegenschein.


Brocken Spectre appears when the sun shines from behind the observer, who is looking down from a ridge or peak into mist or fog. The light projects their shadow through the mist, often in a triangular shape due to perspective. The apparent magnification of size of the shadow is an optical illusion that occurs when the observer judges their shadow on relatively nearby clouds to be at the same distance as faraway land objects seen through gaps in the clouds, or when there are no reference points by which to judge its size. The shadow also falls on water droplets of varying distances from the eye, confusing depth perception. The ghost can appear to move (sometimes suddenly) because of the movement of the cloud layer and variations in density within the cloud.

The head of the figure is often surrounded by the glowing halo-like rings of a glory, rings of colored light that appear directly opposite the sun when sunlight is reflected by a cloud of uniformly-sized water droplets. The effect is caused by the refraction of visible light. A Brocken spectre (German Brockengespenst), also called Brocken bow or mountain spectre, is the apparently enormous and magnified shadow of an observer, cast upon the upper surfaces of clouds opposite the sun. The phenomenon can appear on any misty mountainside or cloud bank, or even from an aeroplane, but the frequent fogs and low-altitude accessibility of the Brocken, a peak in the Harz Mountains in Germany, have created a local legend from which the phenomenon draws its name. The Brocken spectre was observed and described by Johann Silberschlag in 1780, and has since been recorded often in literature about the region. However it can be seen in any mountain region. (The dubious term glockenspectre has also been used to refer to the phenomenon; however, there appears to be no reliable evidence of its accuracy.) Read more ... Read about The Glory


Brocken Spectre   Telegraph - October 10, 2010

A so-called Brocken Spectre is seen in the Tatra mountains in Zakopane, Poland. A Brocken Spectre is a rare optic phenomenon that can be observed in mountains when an observer standing on higher altitude can see his own shadow cast onto a cloud at a lower altitude below him. The head of the figure is often surrounded by rings of colored light. Among mountain climbers there is a superstition that a person who sees a Brocken Spectre will die in the mountains one day





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