Crepuscular rays

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Crepuscular rays, taken near Waterberg Plateau, Namibia

Crepuscular rays /krɨˈpʌsklər/ (also known as Sun rays) in atmospheric optics, are rays of sunlight that appear to radiate from the point in the sky where the sun is located. These rays, which stream through gaps in clouds (particularly stratocumulus) or between other objects, are columns of sunlit air separated by darker cloud-shadowed regions. Despite seeming to converge at a point, the rays are in fact near-parallel shafts of sunlight, and their apparent convergence is a perspective effect (similar, for example, to the way that parallel railway lines seem to converge at a point in the distance).

The name comes from their frequent occurrences during crepuscular hours (those around dawn and dusk), when the contrasts between light and dark are the most obvious. Crepuscular comes from the Latin word "crepusculum", meaning twilight.[1]

Anticrepuscular rays[edit]

Main article: Anticrepuscular rays

The rays in some cases may extend across the sky and appear to converge at the antisolar point, the point on the sky sphere directly opposite the sun. In this case they are called anticrepuscular rays. These are not as easily spotted as crepuscular rays. This apparent dual convergence (to both the solar and antisolar points) is a perspective effect analogous to railway tracks appearing to converge to opposite points in opposite directions.[2]


Crepuscular rays are usually red or yellow in appearance because the path through the atmosphere at sunrise and sunset passes through up to 40 times as much air as rays from a high midday sun. Particles in the air scatter short wavelength light (blue and green) through Rayleigh scattering much more strongly than longer wavelength yellow and red light.

Alternative names[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Edens, Harald, "Crepuscular rays", Weather Photography lightning, clouds, atmospheric optics & astronomy, retrieved November 1, 2011. 
  2. ^ John A. Day (2005), The Book of Clouds, Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., pp. 124–127, ISBN 978-1-4027-2813-6, retrieved 2010-10-09. 
  3. ^ E.g. this term is mentioned in: Jens Krüger; Kai Bürger; Rüdiger Westermann (2006). "Interactive screen-space accurate photon tracing on GPUs". "Proceedings of the 17th Eurographics conference on Rendering Techniques (EGSR'06)". 

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