Real Life Fantasy: Orholam’s Wink

Several readers have pointed out recently that Orholam’s Wink–or Neptune’s Wink, as it’s sometimes called–is a real thing. It is a meteorological optical phenomenon that (long story short) happens when sunlight is refracted by our atmosphere at a particular angle. You can see this phenomenon live and in-person… If you’re in the right place. At the right time.

Thanks Reddit user MandalorePrimus

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the right place is sea level, and the right time is sunset, or sunrise.

From The California Sun (click photo for link)

The timing for sunrise is a bit tricky, since you’d need to be staring at the horizon at sea level on a cloudless morning just before the sun begins to peek out over the horizon.

I don’t know about you, but I need more sleep than that. Also I live near a west-facing coast, so watching for the wink at sunrise is…impractical.

I digress.

The print/online magazine Physics World has an article about this lovely little gift from our atmosphere, shared in 2015.

The article is worth a read; it’s an explanation of the green flash, but it’s also a story from astrophotographer Pete Lawrence. In it he explains, “The atmosphere acts like a prism, refracting different wavelengths by varying amounts.”

A prism, hmmmmm? You think Pete is a Lightbringer fan?

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