Iridescent Clouds


IN addition to the particulars given in NATURE for December 18, 1884 (p. 148) of the brilliantly-coloured clouds, the following observations made here may be interesting. They were visible every day from the 6th to the 13th instant, except it be on the 9th, and at all times of the day, but only strikingly noticeable near sunrise and sunset. The colours did not appear on them when they were very far from the sun, they then being simply white. I did not see any dark ones, as described by J. E. Clark; indeed they always struck me as being very thin, merely like a nearly flat sheet. They tended to be arranged in bands like “Noah's Arks,” and, while their texture was smoother than most cirrus clouds, they were more or less striated transversely. On some afternoons I noticed in many cases a feeble smoke-like prolongation, or tail, on the cast side of the cloud; this had no colouring. They had thus sometimes a striking resemblance to an aurora, differing essentially, however, in their real position being horizontal, while the auroral band and rays are almost vertical. Their direction also was quite different: on the 11th at 8.15 a.m., and 13th at 3.40 p.m. I noticed that the striæ pointed to east by south. In shape they approached parallelograms apparently; really, to rectangles; sometimes they were very perfect rectangles. One of the most striking clouds was, however, a perfect right-angled triangle in form. Their motion was very slow. Some time after sunset they were so bright as to give a material amount of light, and to make the dust-circle around the sun look quite dim. They were evidently at a great height, though they looked lower than the dust-wisps. They were incapable of producing an ordinary halo.

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BACKHOUSE, T. Iridescent Clouds. Nature 31, 192–193 (1885).

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