Explained: Why Clouds Appear Behind the Sun and Moon

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member


Sometimes clouds appear to be behind the sun or the moon in photos and videos, like the example above (source). This confuses people, as the sun is 93 million miles away, so it's impossible for clouds to be behind it. Some people take this as evidence that reality is an illusion, or the Earth is flat. But what's really going on here?

Basically the sun is really really bright. So bright that in most photos and videos it just appears as something at the maximum brightness the camera can handle, so just appears as flat white. If there's something in front of it that's transparent enough to let though a lot of the sunlight, then that bit will be less bright, but still higher than the maximum brightness the camera can handle. So the camera will still see it as the same as the rest of the sun, bright white. This creates the illusion that partially transparent objects go behind the sun.

The upper cloud that goes "behind" the sun is transparent, so the sun shines through it.

The middle and lower clouds are less transparent, so they partially block the sunlight enough to fall below the maximum brightness the camera can handle, hence they are visible, and seem to go in front (which is what all the clouds are really doing)

In the above image, the power lines are not transparent. But because they are out of focus, that has the same effect (thin out of focus objects are effectively transparent blurs)

Here is a simulation of this I just did, a work light behind a sheet of cardboard, and a hole covered in paper representing the sun. The old negatives represent clouds, and the antenna represents power lines, etc.

Firstly with the "sun" off.


Now with the "sun" on. The exact same exposure is used in both shots.

20151211-160040-kbxww.jpg
The "clouds" (partially transparent film strips) look like they go behind the sun.

Zoomed in, the cloud still goes "behind" the sun. The antenna also seems to go behind (although less so, almost looking like it's piercing the sun.


Then with thicker clouds, they are now in front of the sun.


The antenna will appear in front of the sun if it's in focus. This is because, unlike the clouds, it is totally opaque - light cannot go through it, only "around" it, which happens when it's out of focus.



Here's a really simple version of the experiment that anyone can do, you need:
  • A darkish room
  • A single sheet of white paper
  • Three inches or so of Scotch "magic finish" tape, or similar thin semi-transparent non-shiny material
  • A bright light
  • Some dark background
Put the tape on the side of the paper, so it's half on, and half off. View it against the dark background. Notice the tape is highly visible against the dark background.

View attachment 17577

Put the light behind the paper. Notice the tape over the paper vanishes, but is still highly visible over the dark background. It appears like it is going behind the paper
View attachment 17578

This is not a camera effect. This is exactly how it looked to my eyes.
 
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MikeJH

New Member
[Admin: This is the original question prompting this thread. The above post is a collation of responses]


There are a number of videos on YouTube showing clouds which appear to be behind the Sun and Moon.

This is being cited by flat earthers and other devotees of alternative theories, as evidence that the earth is flat, or that we are in some other way being lied to about the nature of reality. Obviously we are dealing with some sort of optical illusion here, but I haven't been able to find a specific debunking of it.

Here is a collection of such clips. It's rather long, but you only have to watch a bit of it to see what I mean...
 
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JRBids

Senior Member.
They claim the same thing about clouds going behind the moon. It's just a very bright object with a translucent object passing in front.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Also, @Mick West so when we view this with our own eyes what is happening is the exact same thing?
Similar, but not the exactly. Your eyes have a higher range of brightness they can detect within a single image. Compare how you see the moon, stars, and clouds to how they look in a video. But the same thing will happen, just less so.

When I made the video, the film strip in front of the "sun" was still a little visible to the naked eye. Your eye adjusts by itself, but much depends upon context
 
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MikeJH

New Member
Thanks for the debunk. It's such an absurd claim that I wasn't sure you'd even consider it worth the effort, frankly.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Thanks for the debunk. It's such an absurd claim that I wasn't sure you'd even consider it worth the effort, frankly.

I don't really consider it a debunk, more an explanation of something that might puzzle people. Of course some people might consider it to be significant, and this might help them. So hopefully wins all round.
 

Leifer

Senior Member.
It takes some understanding of photography, and then the understanding is of photography, not internet rumors.

If the exposure was different (example below), the sun would over-power the tree (via exposure settings). The tree would seemingly vanish when "in front" of the sun..
In this photo, the tree is still there, but less of it is seen, because of the bright sun is in the pic, and the photographer assumed (understood) the problems when taking the pic...and adjusted the camera to suit.
tree_exposure.jpg
http://www.sekonic.com/whatisyoursp...ticles/exposing-for-sunrises-and-sunsets.aspx
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
It's an interesting topic as there's a number of things going on. There's the transparency and blur I discussed to an extent, but there's also flaring of the light in the atmosphere, and flaring at the CCD level, and at the optical limits of the lens.

The topic also has some practical application, in that I'm "scanning" in some 16mm negatives by photographing them with the work light behind them. So it's like I'm photographing these partially transparent objects in front of a bright light. Analogous to photographing clouds.


I need to adjust the exposure so that the "whites" in the negative are as bright as possible without going over the maximum the camera can handle. If the light were too bright, then I'd have areas of flat black, and too dim would be areas of flat white (it's negative, so reversed). Careful adjustment leads to the best dynamic range.
 
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Leifer

Senior Member.
I need to adjust the exposure so that the "whites" in the negative are as bright as possible without going over the maximum the camera can handle.
...as in my reproductions of lightly faded old glass slides, with artificial light behind them. (the blacks needed to stay close to "black", even though there was light behind them.)
(without much adjusting in post.)
https://www.metabunk.org/useful-che...es-and-infographics.t1007/page-10#post-146962

I adjusted for "black" in those photos. If I adjusted for light....maybe more detail would be seen among the lights..

But I realize "true black" is almost never found in photos, esp. older negatives.
 
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Mark_BC

New Member
Hi I just joined this site, it looks very interesting. I love science so debunking beliefs will be interesting. Regarding clouds behind the sun, the pixels on a camera get saturated with photons (the "blown out" areas of photos) in high light and any more or less light that they receive beyond this point won't register as a difference. So if some thin clouds are in front of the camera then the pixels will still be saturated, and it will look just like the rest of the sun. Thicker clouds may obscure enough light from the sun and therefore be visible because they drop the pixel exposure to less than saturation.
 
Hi I just joined this site, it looks very interesting. I love science so debunking beliefs will be interesting. Regarding clouds behind the sun, the pixels on a camera get saturated with photons (the "blown out" areas of photos) in high light and any more or less light that they receive beyond this point won't register as a difference. So if some thin clouds are in front of the camera then the pixels will still be saturated, and it will look just like the rest of the sun. Thicker clouds may obscure enough light from the sun and therefore be visible because they drop the pixel exposure to less than saturation.
Mark, I got interested in this subject recently because last summer I thought I saw clouds moving behind the moon. I'd be interested if anyone else experienced this phenomena.

Last summer while my wife was shopping I was sitting in my car during daylight hours and saw clouds moving behind the moon. I stopped a passer-by to verify what I thought I saw. He quickly looked up and said it's an illusion, so I dismissed it. Last month I somehow landed on a flat earth utube video of clouds moving behind the moon so I viewed other videos.

I heard about the Flat Earth Society 3 years ago but found very little information on the net, so stopped searching. Last summer I thought I saw clouds moving behind the moon during daylight hours but dismissed it as impossible. Last month I ran across a flat earth video of clouds moving behind the moon and it reignited my interest. Almost every video was produced since 2015. I've only studied the subject less than a month. So far I haven't been able to debunk the evidence I examined, but still not ready to accept the theory.
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
He quickly looked up and said it's an illusion, so I dismissed it. Last month I somehow landed on a flat earth utube video of clouds moving behind the moon so I viewed other videos.

So given the first post in this thread, why don't you think it's an illusion?
 
The first post was very specific about photography but only causally mentioned eye witness events. What I thought I saw may have been an illusion, which was my first reaction. I have only been researching this subject for several weeks. I would like to hear from others that had a similar experience before I dismiss it again as an illusion. Thanks for your prompt reply.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
The first post was very specific about photography but only causally mentioned eye witness events. What I thought I saw may have been an illusion, which was my first reaction. I have only been researching this subject for several weeks. I would like to hear from others that had a similar experience before I dismiss it again as an illusion. Thanks for your prompt reply.

The human eye is similar to a camera. semi-transparent objects in front of the moon can be washed out to the naked eye. It's not exactly an "illusion", it's just the moon shining through some clouds.

Here's a really simple version of the experiment. You need:
  • A darkish room
  • A single sheet of white paper
  • Three inches or so of Scotch "magic finish" tape
  • A bright light
  • Some dark background
Put the tape on the side of the paper, so it's half on, and half off. View it against the dark background. Notice the tape is highly visible against the dark background.

20160217-084228-1hc7e.jpg

Put the light behind the paper. Notice the tape over the paper vanishes, but is still highly visible over the dark background. It appears like it is going behind the paper
20160217-084339-x0730.jpg

This is not a camera effect. This is exactly how it looked to my eyes.

Give this a go, and report back.
 
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Gary1986

New Member
Hi guys I'm new to this site. I was wondering if someone could shed some light on my friends video that the took late 2015, clouds seem to be going in front and behind the moon simultaneously, does Mick West's experiment explain this or does it just give an explanation as to why clouds seem to go behind the moon only? I Would appreciate feedback.

 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Hi guys I'm new to this site. I was wondering if someone could shed some light on my friends video that the took late 2015, clouds seem to be going in front and behind the moon simultaneously, does Mick West's experiment explain this or does it just give an explanation as to why clouds seem to go behind the moon only? I Would appreciate feedback.


Thicker clouds appear in front of the moon, the thinner clouds have the illusion of going behind the moon. The experiments demonstrate this with multiple strips of film being the thicker clouds.
 

haanswors

New Member
If the strips are the clouds, should they not be placed in front of the light(sun) to demonstrate the transparency created as they come over? Just trying to get my head around all this.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
If the strips are the clouds, should they not be placed in front of the light(sun) to demonstrate the transparency created as they come over? Just trying to get my head around all this.

Do you meant the tape strips?


The sheet of paper essentially is the "sun", I just didn't have the nice setup I had with the film strips, so there's a bright spot on the paper where I used the flashlight.
 

PaulB

New Member
Nice explanation but not wholly convincing. Those clouds apparently behind the sun are quite dark, only slightly lighter than the band around the middle which is clearly in front of the sun. And there is a much lighter whisp of cloud at bottom right that is still visible in front of the sun.
 

Vinicius

New Member
Ok... so nice try from you , but.. what about those clouds in the top? they are the same as the middle clouds , and they are behind. You just noticed the middle cloud and those little right above them... but , again: What about the clouds on the top? They are behind the sun.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Ok... so nice try from you , but.. what about those clouds in the top? they are the same as the middle clouds , and they are behind. You just noticed the middle cloud and those little right above them... but , again: What about the clouds on the top? They are behind the sun.

They are less dense than the clouds that appear like they are in front of the sun. If you cut and paste a bit of the darker clouds you can see this more directly.

20170116-074214-me5ej.jpg
 

Orlanzza

New Member
Thicker clouds appear in front of the moon, the thinner clouds have the illusion of going behind the moon. The experiments demonstrate this with multiple strips of film being the thicker clouds.
But for the thinner clouds to pass before the moon and be rendered transparent as a result of the extreme brightness of the moon, doesn't it still act as evidence that the moon cannot be that far away? Because, wouldn't the clouds be visible if the moon were far away? As in the experiment that you did, if you were to move the light far behind the film and the antenna, then wouldn't the film and antenna then become visible?
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
But for the thinner clouds to pass before the moon and be rendered transparent as a result of the extreme brightness of the moon, doesn't it still act as evidence that the moon cannot be that far away? Because, wouldn't the clouds be visible if the moon were far away? As in the experiment that you did, if you were to move the light far behind the film and the antenna, then wouldn't the film and antenna then become visible?

It's the brightness not the distance. The moon is both bright and far away.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
solar eclipse shots show this well i think. you can see that if the sun were full the cloud, on top of the sun, there would appear to be completely behind it.
P1030232.JPG
 

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Rory

Senior Member.
...at least try it with distance instead of just saying this is why :)
Isn't distance a factor in how bright something will appear? Therefore, a brighter light further away will produce the same effect as a less bright light that is closer.

In a nutshell, it won't make any difference for the purpose of the demonstration. :)
 

Ericf3713

New Member
Isn't distance a factor in how bright something will appear? Therefore, a brighter light further away will produce the same effect as a less bright light that is closer.

In a nutshell, it won't make any difference for the purpose of the demonstratio were just more transperent causing that effect the same thing would happen to the other clouds as they spread out you can see in the photo they are using for comparison that that lower cloud is thining, but it creates an orange glow if the upper cloud were just thinner the same thing would happen. It would not dissapear.
I don't really consider it a debunk, more an explanation of something that might puzzle people. Of course some people might consider it to be significant, and this might help them. So hopefully wins all round.
if the transperancy of the clouds were a factor clouds were causing that effect, the same thing would happen to the other clouds as they spread out you can see in the photo they are using for comparison that that lower cloud is thinning, but it creates an orange glow if the upper cloud were just thinner and more transparent would it not do the same thing? The thinning clouds do not seem to dissappear, It would not dissapear or appear to go behind the sun.
 

Toussaint

New Member
I don't really consider it a debunk, more an explanation of something that might puzzle people. Of course some people might consider it to be significant, and this might help them. So hopefully wins all round.
Similar, but not the exactly. Your eyes have a higher range of brightness they can detect within a single image. Compare how you see the moon, stars, and clouds to how they look in a video. But the same thing will happen, just less so.

When I made the video, the film strip in front of the "sun" was still a little visible to the naked eye. Your eye adjusts by itself, but much depends upon context
I totally disagree with your claim and model set up to explain your claim ... as the sun is a LOCALISED light source.... a 93 million miles away sun would not produce a localised llight source amongst a few clouds.
 

Landru

Moderator
Staff member
I totally disagree with your claim and model set up to explain your claim ... as the sun is a LOCALISED light source.... a 93 million miles away sun would not produce a localised llight source amongst a few clouds.
Based on what evidence?
 

TEEJ

Senior Member.
You Tuber trying to debunk Mick's experiment video.

 
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deirdre

Senior Member.
You Tuber trying to debunk Mick's experiment video.
You violated the No-Click Policy.
https://www.metabunk.org/metabunks-no-click-policy.t5158/

So.. I started watching to help you out with stating his claim. But he lost me with the very first sentence.
Flat Earth Society says the Sun is 3,000 miles above the Earth.
upload_2017-10-11_18-27-11.png


So... um...
 
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