This photo beautifully displays the fluid flow phenomenon of contrails (short for “condensation trails”). The trails that we are all used to observing shooting across the sky behind a passing plane are caused by condensation of water vapor as the aircraft passes through the “wet” air. The additional water vapor output from the engines causes an increase in moisture which is below the dew point of the already moist air, and thus the water condenses into a cloud. Additional condensation can be provided by the wing tips which create lower pressure vortices behind the aircraft. The decreased pressure can result in a decrease in temperature below the local dew point.
While we are all acquainted with observing contrails, this image by Karol Staniec takes the observation to the next level. The clouds produced as the jet rockets across the sky in the evening display a beautiful sunset that would otherwise not be visible in the cloudless sky. Combined with Staniec’s beautiful framing of the shot, this is a photo of fluid flow exemplifying a rare occurrence of an otherwise common phenomenon that epitomizes the artistic side of science.