A vortex has opened up in Arizona

Illustration for article titled A vortex has opened up in Arizona

Anyone in Arizona will be mildly concerned to hear that a vortex in reality opened up, and it's soon to suck your state into another dimension. Or, at least, that what this looks like. Actually, it's a common meteorological phenomenon seen from an uncommon vantage point.


This photo looks like a hole in reality is drawing Arizona into the depths of hell. (Or, if you're an optimist, straight up to heaven.) It's not a vortex, and, amazingly, it's not photoshop. It's a rarely-noticed but not uncommon phenomenon called anti-crepuscular rays. Crepuscular comes from a latin words and means "relating to twilight." (If a Spanish-speaker asks you to see Crepúsculo, they're asking you to watch Twilight with them.) At twilight, particularly if it's a cloudy or dusty twilight, people will see what look like distinct rays emanating from the sun. These are crepuscular rays.


If those people turned around, they might see what look like rays emanating from a spot on the horizon directly opposite to the sun. These are anti-crepuscular rays. Although the rays from the sun look like they're spreading out, they are actually running in near-parallel lines across the sky. This means they should be visible all along the sky. (If you're wondering how both sets of rays seem to flare out when they're actually parallel, think about how train tracks seem to converge on a point at the either end of the horizon when they're actually running parallel the entire way.)

Here, the anti-crepuscular rays are visible below the cloud line. They're seen from an airplane, so they seem to be coming from the ground as well as from the sky. The overall picture makes it look like the entire world is being drawn towards a point at the horizon. Very cool!

Image: Craig Gould

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Steven Lyle Jordan

Dammit! Is it too much to ask that one of those open over Texas?!?