Does Sun have a reflection on Earth?

  • The new Google Maps1 presents an actual view of Earth, with the current position of Sun illuminating half part of Earth in real time. It is quite an exquisite view.

    My question is based on the following image:


    As you can see, Sun's reflection from southern Atlantic Ocean looks very charming. But does it really happen like that? If we travel far2 from Earth, can we actually see Sun's reflection or it is just something Google added for aesthetics?

    1: Yes, I don't like most of its new features too, especially when they broke several of the old ones. But that's a separate discussion.

    2: Although, the camera's supposed position would be close to geostationary orbit, I guess the reflection can also been seen as close as ISS or Hubble.

    I think BillOer nailed it, and looking at a few pictures, ISS is a lot closer so it doesn't catch a small ball of light like that, it's more spread out, but with the curvature of the earth, like a convex mirror: - that makes sense. The rough surface of the ocean is what spreads out and dulls the sun and the atmosphere turns it yellow when the sun is actually white. Hubble, by the way, doesn't point towards the earth. It's not designed to do that. It's a very narrow focused lens and it couldn't capture wide angle.

    Looks like bad simulation. At 50° or more from direction of photon influx, that circular glint *should* look quite oval.

    Come to think of it, isn't a glint always near 90° from the terminator?

    So, is it actually sunglint, or is it, as @WayfaringStranger remarked, a virtual sunglint added by Google?

  • It's called sunglint. This can be problematic for Earth-observing satellites in low Earth orbit. Such satellites typically don't take a "picture". They instead continuously scan the Earth a line at a time. This means the sunglint moves with the satellite.

    You can see this effect yourself while flying in an airplane. Little ribbons of rivers and lakes can appear to be on fire. Here's a nice short YouTube video that shows this perfectly.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM