The Reflection of Distant Lights on the Clouds


I DO not know whether observations have ever been made to determine how far the reflection of distant lights on the clouds may be seen. It may possibly, however, be of some interest to know that the lights of London may at times be seen in this way at a distance of at least fifty miles. At 11 p.m. on April 30 the reflections of the lights of several neighbouring towns were unusually bright as seen from here. The altitude of the Portsmouth glare was about 10° the distance of the centre of Portsmouth is about 12.5 miles; the cloud height was therefore about 2.2 miles. Over Hindhead and Blackdown a bright band of light was visible. Circumstances prevented me from measuring its altitude, but I estimated it as one or two degrees. Now London lies exactly in this direction, and fifty miles would bring one to the well-lighted area of south London. If the cloud height were uniform, the altitude of the reflection at this distance should have been a little more than 2°. The only other large town in the same direction is Guildford; the altitude of its glare should have been 5°. I do not think I could have made so large an error in estimating the altitude, but apart from this the Guildford glare would not stretch along, the horizon for more than 2°, while the observed band of light stretched, for at least 10°, and possibly more, for trees bounded the view to the west and the downs to the east.

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CAVE, C. The Reflection of Distant Lights on the Clouds. Nature 78, 30 (1908).

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