Photographer captures “horns” on the horizon during annular solar eclipse

Horn-like appearance due to what’s called an Etruscan Vase effect

Photo Credit: Elias Chasiotis - Qatar
Photo Credit: Elias Chasiotis - Qatar (Elias Chasiotis)

ROANOKE, Va. – In late December, an annular solar eclipse took place in the Eastern Hemisphere, which would explain why we never saw it or mentioned it here.

An annular eclipse occurs when the moon as at its farthest point from Earth, and therefore appears smaller. When it moves in front of the sun, the sun’s light casts a ring around the seemingly smaller moon. Weeks later, the picture you see above popped up on our social media feeds.

Elias Chasiotis captured this picture while off the coast of Qatar. According to an article from NBC New York, the appearance of horns on the horizon can be traced back to something called the Etruscan Vase effect.

Atmospheric illusions have always been of interest to me. One example of an atmospheric illusion might be how the sun or moon appears larger over the horizon, because it’s passing through more atmosphere than when it’s higher up in the sky.

In the case of an Etruscan Vase, we have a layer of cold air at the surface and a layer of warm air just above that. This is what’s called a temperature inversion, and is something we see quite often on clear, calm nights around here.

The warm layer above bent the light low on the horizon, distorting what you see. Rather than seeing the sunny ring around the moon, you see the light take on the shape of horns on the horizon.

Temperature inversion explainer
Temperature inversion explainer

This warm layer can also trap cooler air and clouds at the surface, which may result in fog and drizzle for a lot of us late Friday night into Saturday morning. It can also trap sound too, which is why fireworks and thunder can sound louder at night.

Chasiotis posted more pictures of the eclipse from off the coast of Qatar here.

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