August 19th, 2011

I am traveling with Austin Mann in Ethiopia working on the final prep for our Light The World workshop. We looked up to the sky to see the strangest thing i’ve probably ever seen.

What on earth could it be. We just sat in wonder as the colors changed and shifted shapes behind the clouds. I barely touched these so you can see how insane this looks straight out of the camera.

UPDATE: Check out Austin Mann’s BLOGPOST of the rainbow cloud.

UPDATE: 8/24/2011 NASA’s Picture of the day 8/24/2011 with explanation as to what on earth this is.

UPDATE: 8/26/2011 Yahoo! Photo of the week 8/26/2011


132 Responses to “What on earth!”

  1. Zack McDowell Says:
    August 19th, 2011 at 7:30 am

    Wow! How weird but amazing. This would make a cool album cover. You guys have an amazing trip. I can’t wait to hear how the workshop goes.

  2. Wow, that’s beautiful! I wonder what the heck it is?!

  3. I think it’s a fire rainbow. Wikipedia it.
    Looks cool though :D

  4. it looks kind of like this thing, except your photo is 50x better.

    I know nothing about rainbows or halos just researched for a minute…

  5. Sundog!

  6. Amazing. I always think of how beautiful and wonderful God is to create such a beauty when I see things like that :)

    Thanks for sharing Esther!

  7. It’s a big compact disc!

  8. chemtrails..?

  9. Bloomin' eck Says:
    August 19th, 2011 at 12:49 pm
  10. its “Earthquake lights,” produced from magnetic field fluctuations affecting ions in the atmosphere (much like auroras or “northern lights”) from stresses on crystals such as quartz in the base-rock. They occur in times of tectonic stress, earthquakes for example, hence the name.

  11. Looks like iridescence on a lenticular or even pileus cloud that hovering over the other cloud.

  12. Monty Rogers Says:
    August 19th, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    how amazing ester! been quite long time you probably don’t remember me.

  13. This isn’t the work of “God”.


  14. Earthquake lights. Shows up minutes to hours before an earthquake hits.

  15. Rainbow Dash Says:
    August 19th, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Whoops! I was hoping no one had noticed my ‘Sonic Rainboom’.

  16. There was a massive sunburst last night, which caused a wonderful show of meteors here in northern UK, also saw what looked like northern lights (much like this picture). It is to do with the magnetic forces of the moon and the radiation from the sun.

  17. JimBob’s post up above is correct its iridescence through a lenticular or pileus cloud that is above the obvious cumulus cloud you see in the photo. Its simply sunlight passing through ice crystals in the cloud, similar to how light passes through raindrops creating a rainbow. An EXCELLENT example of the process and great photo no doubt!

  18. Alfredo Jacobo Perez Gomez Says:
    August 20th, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Wow, amazing. It would be a shame if more people didn’t see this.

    Please consider submitting this picture to NASA’s popular web site, Astronomy Picture of the Day.

    They like to show and explain, not just space pictures, but weird and wonderful atmospheric effects as well, of which this is a great example.

    For the same reason, you could submit it to wikipedia under the entry for the phenomenon that caused this.

    I suspect someone might want to license it, so be sure to safeguard your rights to the picture if you want to.

  19. Alfredo Jacobo Perez Gomez Says:
    August 20th, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Oh and PS the NASA web site I mentioned is at

  20. It’s beautiful! looks like a circumhorizontal arc!

  21. How does anon know it isn’t a work of God? Can anon produce one of these marvelous sights? Can anon permit it to be? Geez, anon, you are a bit pushy, live and let live. What’s it to you? I see positive remarks about a positive wonder. The photo is awesome and nature, whether you believe it or not, is “designed” in a way to bring glory to it’s designer. The heavens declare the Glory of God!
    Glory, mmmm, sure is a deeper word than “dumbass”!

  22. Anon is right. You’re a dumbass. It may be a positive wonder, but that does not mean your imaginary sky wizard made it. Nature made it – we can be in awe of its beauty without bringing something negative like religion into it.

    Live and let live would mean you keep your idiotic, primitive superstitions to yourself, not inflict them on others.

  23. it is pretty funny to see the name you have chosen yet you have no idea what science is.

  24. It’s called a cloud dog, and it just a rainbow.

  25. wow this is an amazing photoshop you should do a tutorial on how you did it.

  26. it simple little ice crystal in the sky refracting the light; it s beautiful but not mysterious.

  27. IndigoAndBlack Says:
    August 22nd, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Gorgeous pictures! Talk about being in the right place at the right time…

    Makes me sad, though, that we’re here now in the 21st century, but mythology still has to be dragged in to the discussion. No gods are necessary for us to enjoy such beautiful sights. No gods needed in the production of the original light, none required for refraction to occur, and none responsible for the visual organs that are permitting us to have our enjoyment.

    It’s beautiful and rare, but not at all miraculous.


  28. What really makes me sad is that here we are in the 21st century and we’re still dragging people through the dirt and persecuting them for their religious beliefs. I myself am an atheist, but fuck you and the horse you rode in on if you honestly believe that the carbon molecules that compose you are superior to anyone else’s because you have a different view of the universe. The word god doesn’t necessarily have to be ascribed to myth or an “angry sky wizard”, which not only trivializes Christianity but every world religion you bigoted prick, it can ascribe to a great deal of things including an abstract and unnameable entity that encompasses the workings, unity, and perceived beauty of the universe. Often times it refers to a faceless icon that one can attribute gratitude for existence and relief from the cold formulaic certainty of logic. Humans as a species, let alone you, do not have all the answers of the universe, many assumptions and models of our universe may very well prove to be completely wrong in the next 500 years or so. The human brain is an imperfect machine prone to worries, mistakes and misattributed ideas of the acheivments of others. Stating that science is the only true path of knowledge with absolute certainty really just refutes the concept of science in the first place. Science doesn’t have all the answers, and it knows it doens’t have all the answers. Otherwise it would stop. Formula and logic were concocted by the same broken worried minds that fashioned dogmatic belief or government laws. God is a place holder for the potential of mankind.

  29. Iridescent clouds – When parts of clouds are thin and have similar size droplets, diffraction can make them shine with colours like a corona. In fact, the colours are essentially corona fragments. The effect is called cloud iridescence or irisation, terms derived from Iris the Greek personification of the rainbow.

    The usually delicate colours can be in almost random patches or bands at cloud edges. They are only organised into coronal rings when the droplet size is uniform right across the cloud. The bands and colours change or come and go as the cloud evolves. They occur most often in altocumulus, cirrocumulus and especially in lenticular clouds. Iridescence is seen mostly when part of a cloud is forming because then all the droplets have a similar history and consequently have a similar size.

    Sometimes iridescence can be seen far from the sun but is most frequent near to it. As for coronas, search safely by hiding the sun behind a building and, even better, also viewing the reflection of the sky in water.

    Very much rarer iridescence is that of nacreous or mother-of-pearl clouds. They can glow very brightly and are far higher than ordinary tropospheric clouds. Iridescence is also seen in rocket exhaust trails.

    I just copy&pasted the info over but my good friend an ABC weatherman taught me about clouds when we drove through Hwy 395

  30. [...] La imagen de arriba se tomó justo después de que esta pintoresca vista fuera advertida de casualidad por un fotógrafo en Etiopia. [...]

  31. Zombie Mesiah Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 4:44 am

    @susan and
    Religion is like a penis
    It’s fine to have one.
    It’s fine to be proud of it.
    But please don’t whip it out in public and start waving it around,
    And PLEASE don’t try to shove it down my or my children’s throats.

    Also your stupid is showing…

  32. Great picture, and congratulations on the NASA feature. (August 24, 2011)

  33. Hey colour out of space.
    HP Lovecraft FTW

  34. Now how did that happened?

  35. fire rainbow?

  36. Stunning photos. I hope you don’t mind but I featured your 2 photographs on my cool pictures blog and linked back to your blog as the source:

  37. HAARP

  38. this is a result of the haarp project

  39. this is haarp related

  40. A rare beauty! and the work of my Creator. (..and If you don’t like the religious reference, I don’t care….just means I have grace and you don’t…big deal)

  41. I also have seen something like this near Daytona Beach in Florida. Wasnt sure what it was either. Cool to see somebody else has seen this too and im not crazy…. haha

  42. ok its got to be project blue beam. check it out on youtube.

  43. This is a picture of a lenticular cloud behind a cumulus. Lenticular cloud formations are classic cloud formations located above a mountain. NO magic. NO mystery NOT God.

  44. [...] What on earth! [estherhavens] (the photographer) andA Pileus Iridescent Cloud Over Ethiopia [nasa] viaRare Iridescent Cloud [buzzfeed] [...]


  46. Pretty amazing. Lucky you!

    it’s sights like this that in primitive times would bring the early earthwalkers to wonder about and if there WAS such a supreme being…but after discovering alcohol, it eventually became a non-issue.

  47. Wow what ever it is it is truely stunning.

  48. I saw something like this in naval once! But it was nighttime.

  49. ***Navada not naval

  50. Ruben Rosenberg Colorni Says:
    August 25th, 2011 at 1:51 am

    This is an electromagnetic disturbance in the ionosphere. Many attribute these ever so frequently appearing phenomena around the world to the use of HAARP devices by governments to modify weather patterns (do some research on the topic you’ll realize what I’m talking about). It is very similar, in effect, to the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) which occurs naturally in northern regions due to the electromagnetic currents resonating around the pole area. This phenomenon also has a tendency to appear nearby earthquake sites, thus increasing suspicions that the HAARP devices could be used to cause artificially induced earthquakes and other seismic events.

  51. ^ Shut up you crazy conspiracy addict. this clearly is a refraction of light in the atmosphere or moisture in the air. Stfu.

  52. Steve Withers Says:
    August 25th, 2011 at 4:20 am

    I’ve seen this kind of thing twice.

    It’s ice at high altitude, but configured by the wind / air movements to be a relatively flat or curved surface….reflecting sunlight. It also acts as a kind of prism ….a sort of “ice-bow”…..typically as the Sun is rising or setting so a person on the ground gets this kind of reflection.

    I saw one almost exactly like this a few weeks ago over north Auckland. I didn’t stop my car to take a photo. I wish I had.

  53. [...] I found these photos here. This entry was posted in Shawn Rosvold and tagged cloud, esther havens, iridescent clouds, irisation, rainbow, rainbow cloud by SR. Bookmark the permalink. [...]


  55. heaven is a little bit full!

  56. “Who me” – you might want to look up the word atheist. I don’t think it means what you think it does. Oh, and if you think 500 years from now science will confirm the existence of a creator-man-god, then you might want to look back 500 years and see what direction the evidence has been going up until now.

    Why do the god-creator people always chime in when there’s a really cool photo, but not when it’s a picture of a field full of dead bodies, a mud slide covering a village, or a lagoon full of dying dolphins? And what about pictures of really awesome stuff that we can only see with scientific equipment (the heavens via Hubble)? Is that the man-god’s way of rewarding scientists … for helping uncover the physical explanations for things that used to be attributed to the man-god himself?

  57. wakeupstupid Says:
    August 25th, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Look it up ans stop being being blind sheeple when they tell you to believe the stupid ‘water droplets’ nonsense they are trying to shove down your throats.

  58. [...] What on earth? (blog [...]

  59. Stopped reading the comments when they turned religious. Great photo!

  60. rofl this was taken on my birthday =D

  61. It’s amazing how some ice, boring old ice can turn the topic of conversation to religion.

  62. its so bizarre what what a photo can do? all these comments, its just a wonderful picture of the beautiful world we live in! now get over it!

  63. I saw exactly the same today in Italy, Turin… very strange!

  64. Geez I see these all the time where I live It’s what happens when the sun shines through droplets of water in the clouds.. Nice pics but this is a no brainer as to the cause..

  65. Do a search on Google Images for “haarp clouds” …some of the pictures look eerily similar to this.

  66. Never seen tha where I live!!

  67. How come I’ve studied physics, and never was aware of such phenomena? I feel ashamed of my faculty now…

  68. It is a sun dog. Beautiful capture!

  69. So many wrong explanations here. It’s an iridescent cloud and most likely a pileus, as was mentioned by one of the commenters. Anyway, nice captures!

    I did a google image search on “HAARP clouds” and I get all kinds of different images that are all ordinary atmospheric phenomena (halos, fallstreak holes, etc.). There’s nothing extraordinary in those pictures — it’s extroardinary stupidity and paranoia of people that is being displayed. :)

  70. [...] similar size and so together diffract different colors of sunlight by different amounts. The above image was taken just after the picturesque sight was noticed by chance by a photographer in Ethiopia. A [...]

  71. Guys and gals this is clearly not a natural thing, but is instead an alien space craft that was hiding behind a cloud and it had some sort of claoking device active when the sunlight hit it. This is such a simple thing to understand.

  72. It’s called a nacreous cloud, aka Polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs)

  73. HAARP lol

    did anyone read cloud girls comment,
    she pretty much nailed it

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  75. [...] was taken just after the picturesque sight was noticed by chance by humanitarian photographer, Esther Havens in [...]

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  80. its called a “sun dog”.. seen them alot working on the beach as a lifeguard. get the question what is it? where it come from? “sun dog cloud!”

  81. sorry its a type of sun dog cloud.

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