A satellite image of the Arabian Sea taken on April 11 from space is making the rounds online. The eerie photograph captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer or MODIS on NASA's Terra satellite shows a dark and ominous figure in the waters of Oman.
While the image displays a powerful contrast of colors that looks absolutely extraordinary, the federal space agency says the unnerving supernatural effect is caused by normal weather conditions in the area.
What Is Sunglint
This incredible phenomenon is called sunglint.
"Smooth water reflects sunlight like a mirror, particularly when viewed from above. Areas where that light is reflected by the water at the same angle that a satellite views it — when the Sun, the satellite, and the sea are lined up — appear brighter than surrounding areas. Viewed globally, sunglint shows up as long, linear streaks down the center of a swath of satellite data," NASA Earth Observatory explained.
ISS Astronaut Captures Sunglint In Lake Titicaca
Astronauts onboard the International Space Station are privy to breathtaking views of more intricate sunglint patterns as they look down on Earth.
An excellent example of this would be the 2016 photo of a sunglint on Lake Titicaca, which is located between Peru and Bolivia and which is regarded as the largest lake in South America. The striking image was taken by a member of Expedition 49 crew using a Nikon D4 digital camera fitted with an 800-millimeter lens.
As seen in the image above, sunglint reflection patterns can be affected by wind condition, as wind-swept water and smooth water mirror sunlight differently.
How To See Sunglint From Earth
While sunglint patterns are more frequently seen above the Earth, it doesn't mean we can't spot one down here, too. If you've ever been on the beach before the sun sets and stared in awe at the luminous line of sunlight from the horizon, then NASA says you've seen a glitter path.
Glitter path is an optical phenomenon composed of numerous bright points of sunlight reflecting off ripples and waves on the surface of the sea back at a sensor, say the human eye or a camera lens. Together, these reflected points of light make a sunglint.
"Note how much the roughness of the water surface affected the glitter path. Near the shore, where waves had just broken and the water surface was filled with foam, the glitter path was significantly wider than it was in the smoother waters farther offshore," Adam Voiland of NASA Earth Observatory wrote about the photo above of Rodeo Beach, which he took back in 2015.