Setting Sun Creates Cloud-Sea Montage


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The setting sun highlights cloud patterns—as well as the Pacific Ocean surface itself—in this photograph taken by an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS was over Chile’s Andes Mountains at the time.

The camera view is looking back toward the Pacific Ocean as the sun was setting in the west (toward the upper right). Light from the setting sun reflects off the water surface and creates a mirror-like appearance, a phenomenon known as sunglint. Bands of relatively low-altitude cumulus clouds appear like a flotilla of ships, with west-facing sides illuminated by waning sunlight and the rest of the clouds in shadow.

Given the short camera lens used, an individual cloud shadow may extend for miles. Light gray clouds at image lower left appear to be at a higher altitude. The cloud cover is likely a remnant of a frontal system that moved in from the Pacific and over inland South America a day or two prior to when the image was taken.

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