No lollypop


I tried, but I didn’t win the lollypop — but I did manage something almost as good.

I rarely fly anymore, but when I do, I ask for a window seat away from the wing. There are things that one can see from the air that one cannot see from the ground (and they aren’t the inflight ads or movies). A view from either side of the plane holds delights, but on this occasion I was on the shady side.

A promising feature delivered a remarkably undistinguished picture: the shadow of a contrail from my own aircraft travelling across a water surface far below. Low flying jets do not make contrails, but when seen from the ground, neither the plane nor its contrail will cover the whole sun. The shadow of the plane is too small and diffuse to be seen here, and even the larger contrail appears diffuse. But, it was a start. Now, I would hope for a glory.

A glory is a set of concentric pastel coloured rings seen around the antisolar point (your shadow) then the shadow falls on a cloud of fairly uniform water drops. This glory was seen a few years ago.

So, with the contrail shadow as the stick and the glory as the candy, one gets the uncommon sight of a lollypop moving across the landscape as it chases the plane. This is the only picture I have ever managed of the lollypop, and it was taken so many years ago that it was on film and had to be scanned. This is what I hoped to see again.

I failed: No lollypop emerged. The plane did fly over clouds, but they were (mainly) composed of ice crystals. Yet, being at a high altitude, they presented a sharper shadow. The contrail has resolved into two vortices and the fuselage, wings, and tail of the plane are visible. There is a faint brightening (a hint of a glory) behind the wings, where I was sitting.

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2 Responses to No lollypop

  1. Pamella says:

    Such obscure wonders you unearth, supraearth, Alistair.

  2. Trevor Goward says:

    Well done Alistair! You never cease to make me smile: the childlike wonder you bring to the world.

    I’m a bit down on air travel these days – time to cut back on carbon and all that – and yet, for me, your utter fascination with the way of things more than makes up for any freequent flyer points you might have accrued. Not many, I gather.

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