Atmospheric Optics is a cool site showcasing all of Mother Nature’s delightful anomolys in the sky. The site has terrific simulations and detailed explanations about how the optical effects work, such as the classic crepuscular rays above. Although it is obvious in hindsight, it was sort of my personal equivalent of finding out that Santa Clause may not be real: Those glorious rays of light “radiating outward” from the sun are actually all parallel (just like any other time of the day); they just appear in perspective to us from the ground.
There are some truly amazing visual effects that make Hollywood’s usual assortment of alien invasion stuff look like child’s play, including several effects that show the impact of human activity on our sky.
Here are “light pillars” of artificial light reflecting off of water droplets:
The upper atmosphere vapor trail of a missile launch:
I’ll finish this post with the classic aurora (this picture from over Norway):