When an astronaut aboard the International Space Station set up a camera on a scenic view of the northern Mediterranean, the spacecraft instead captured a unique effect created by the reflection of the moon on the surface of the water.
A photo of an astronaut with a “moon shine” demonstrates how flickering lights dim in the coastal cities of Italy and the islands of the northern Mediterranean. In the photo they look like dark strokes and resemble breathtaking clouds.
Sunlight can be reflected from the surface of water or snow, and when the light falls at a certain angle, it creates a glare on the material surface. Scientists call this shine “sun glare”. And the phenomenon itself takes place in accordance with a mathematical concept called the bidirectional reflectance distribution function (BRDF), according to the Goddart NASA space center at Greenbelt.
It turns out that moonlight can do the same. When the light from the moon reflects on the surface of a large body of water or ice at a particular angle, it also creates glare (or shine). So wrote in his blog the Joint Institute for Atmospheric Research (CIRA) at the University of Colorado.
NASA reports that when moonlight reflects off the sea, as it did in the photograph taken, it can manifest complex patterns on the surface of the sea. As reported by the agency, these patterns are identified, as a rule, from a combination of various natural processes and traces left as a result of human activity. In this image, for example, you can see the wave patterns left by passing ships in a characteristic V-shaped curve to the north of Elba Island, reports NASA. The winding line stretches from the island of Montecristo, called the “island of wakefulness”. This is the result of alternating masses of moving air that forms on the leeward side of the island.
Dark areas on the surface of the sea, pointing to coarser water, as in this case, sometimes make islands such as Montecristo and Pianosa inaccessible for review, - notes NASA. In contrast, places protected from wind and turbulence tend to look brighter because their smooth surfaces work as an excellent mirror for the lunar surface, the agency’s spokesman said. The sea surface also displays numerous narrow eddies, known as gyres, which show large patterns of water circulation in the sea.
The image of the astronaut looks more attractive thanks to the accumulation of lights from nearby cities, such as Piombino and Punta Alta. The golden glow of cities turns this otherworldly picture of the Mediterranean Sea on Earth at night into something truly magical.