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Cloudshine

The Sun’s not the only shadow creator in the daytime sky.
Most skywatchers are aware that when a young crescent Moon graces our skies, its “dark” side glows like a dying ember, allowing us to see its dark patches and bright surface features, albeit dimly. This visual paradox (when darkness appears light) materializes whenever the dark part of the Moon catches sunlight reflecting off Earth and returns that light to our eyes.

Observers call this faint glow “earthshine,” and it is one of the most beautiful sights that emerges from the twilight sky. But there’s another visual paradox related to Earth and sky that can emerge during twilight and briefly turn shadow into light by a similar feat of natural magic.

Twilit twist

One night during Botswana’s rainy season, we had a thunderstorm that ended shortly before sunset, which then occurred in a clearing sky. In its dying gasps, the Sun tossed long golden spears into my garden and bathed the trees to the east in its delicious nectar against a slate gray sky. The world seemed in balance — until the Sun set and twilight deepened. Then it happened.

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