Saturday, July 17, 2010

Winter Sunrise

A brilliant sunrise over Ogdensburg, New York -  There was a lot of science in this scene. I hope there was a lot of art as well.

The reflection of the sunrise is most brilliant where the water is smooth and more mirror-like. For sun glint, a rippled surface at a given distance, is less bright as the amount of surface area oriented to reflect the direct sunlight to the eye is certainly less than that of a mirror at the same distance. The amount of sun glint decreases as one looks more directly down on the ripples as the surfaces of the small waves are less likely to be oriented to produce direct reflection of the sunlight to the eye. The best and brightest sun glint reflections occur when the viewing angle is less than 15 degrees to the surface of the water.

The amount of reflected light also decreases as the viewing angle increases so that one is looking more directly into the water. At these angles, refraction of the light into the water dominates reflection. Thus the small amount of reflected light at these angles is light from the sky thus making the ripples more blue. Most light gets refracted into the water and thus the overall appearance of the water is darker.

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