MadSci Network: Physics

Subject: How far can we see reflected light?

Date: Mon Sep 11 22:32:57 2000
Posted by Stanton Ose
Grade level: teacher/prof School: Harvard
City: Cambridge State/Province: MA Country: USA
Area of science: Physics
ID: 968725977.Ph

I am on the shore of Frenchman's Bay, Maine at night looking across salt 
water at Bar Harbor and Cadilac Mountain about 5 miles away.  
Periodically, a car which has driven to the summit of the mountain turns 
around at the top and it's headlights can be seen as a flash of light 
lasting a few seconds.  At the same time, it seems that I can see a path 
of reflected light from these headlights shining all the way across the 
bay to where I am standing (about 5 miles as I noted above).  I find it 
difficult to believe that automobile headlights are strong enough to shine 
for this distance.  I have also seen this phenomenon with aircraft landing 
lights when the aircraft is 5 to 10 miles away (estimated).

Re: How far can we see reflected light?

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