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Heiligenschein, or hotspot, around the shadow of a hot-air balloon cast on a field of standing crops (Oxfordshire, England)

Heiligenschein (German for "halo" or "aureola", pronounced [ˈhaɪlɪɡənˌʃaɪn]) is an optical phenomenon in which a bright spot appears around the shadow of the viewer's head. In photogrammetry and remote sensing, it is more commonly known as the hotspot.

This diffuse reflection is due to the opposition surge, the reduction in the proportion of shadows viewed at angles close to the backscatter direction. It may also be created when the surface on which the shadow falls has special optical properties. Both dry regolith and dewy grass are known to exhibit these characteristics. Nearly spherical dew droplets act as lenses to focus the light on the surface behind them. Some of this light backscatters in the direction of the sunlight as it is retroreflected through the dew droplet. This light scattering makes the antisolar point appear the brightest.

Heiligenschein appears around head of Buzz Aldrin's shadow due to the retroreflective properties of lunar regolith.[1] This is a close up of the reflection in Aldrin's visor, cropped from the famous image.[2] The white figure to the right is the photographer, Neil Armstrong.

The glory is a similar halo effect caused by a different mechanism.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hapke, Bruce; Nelson, Robert; Smythe, William (1998). "The Opposition Effect of the Moon: Coherent Backscatter and Shadow Hiding". Icarus. 133: 89–97. Bibcode:1998Icar..133...89H. doi:10.1006/icar.1998.5907. 
  2. ^ Catalog number AS11-40-5903

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