A photographer takes a picture of unusual rainbow-colored airplane contrails.


A photographer who closely looked at a plane flying above was amazed when he spotted a vibrant rainbow trail emerging from its rear.

Soumyadeep Mukherjee from India informs us that on July 19, he had intended to photograph the International Space Station (ISS) crossing in front of the sun, but things didn’t go as he had hoped.

“I had prepared everything on my terrace by 5:00 PM and was fully prepared. However, clouds came in and I couldn’t take a photo of the ISS,” he describes.

“I was casually walking around on the terrace when I noticed sun dogs (another optical phenomenon) and quickly moved to photograph them. While I was taking the picture with a slightly wide angle (150mm), I noticed a plane and a contrail on the right side of the image.”

“I zoomed in to 600mm, and I couldn’t believe that I was observing colors on that contrail through the live view. I took a photo and double-checked to confirm,” he adds.

“I captured approximately 20-30 pictures within 40 seconds. Out of those, I randomly selected seven images, edited them using Adobe Camera Raw, and ultimately created the collage in Photoshop,” he explains.

The outcome of the photos shows vibrant vapor trails emerging from the rear of a commercial jet. However, just a few days later, on July 24, Mukherjee personally witnessed another colorful contrail.

“I quickly retrieved my equipment and photographed the shimmering contrail,” he remarks. “Recording this unusual optical phenomenon has been a long-standing desire of mine, and I’m incredibly pleased to have successfully captured it, not just once, but twice!”

What are Rainbow Contrails?

The lines in the air that airplanes leave behind are mainly created from the condensed water vapor from their engines. When sunlight is split by small water droplets in these trails, it forms rainbow contrails or iridescent contrails.

As mentioned by Atmosphere Optics, when droplets of the same size diffract colored light in a consistent direction, the colors become noticeable to people observing from the ground.

Mukherjee employed his Nikon D5600 camera equipped with a Sigma 150-600mm lens to take the pictures.

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