# 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: smsm2a2012.weebly.com/uploads/1/0/5/0/10506713/6545636_orig.jpg - 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. Jun 20, 2015 at 6:55
• Looks like bad simulation. At 50° or more from direction of photon influx, that circular glint should look quite oval. Jun 20, 2015 at 11:02
• Come to think of it, isn't a glint always near 90° from the terminator? Jun 26, 2015 at 12:44
• So, is it actually sunglint, or is it, as @WayfaringStranger remarked, a virtual sunglint added by Google? Jul 10, 2018 at 4:45

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.

Yes. A web search for "photo sun glint space" turns up a number of images, including this one.

(I really wanted to just say "Yes." with the photo, but it wouldn't accept it.)

I think what this photo is actually capturing is the reflection of the sun off of the ocean's surface. Were the sun over a landmass, I don't think this "reflection" would be seen.

"... Sun's reflection from southern Atlantic Ocean looks very charming. But does it really happen like that?".

Exactly as shown in your Screenshot?, no.

Assuming a large reflective surface, like a calm ocean, you get a 'virtual image' where the Sun appears reflected from a point underwater; but the wavyness and imperfections make the reflection diffused.

Not really an answer to that specific question, but I think its neat that we could actually measure this reflection on exoplanets.

There is a neat astrobite about a recent paper discussing ocean glint on exoplanets. They calculate how this reflection changes the overall spectrum of an exoplanet (with Earth as an example):

However, we probably have to wait some time for such observations:

Although detecting these oceans might still be too difficult of a task for JWST, the authors find that the next generation of 6 to 15 meter space-based telescopes (e.g. LUVOIR) should be able to make these kinds of detections.

Sure it does, and it's beautiful!

Here's a GIF from the YouTube video Earth from Himawari-8 satellite which I found in but any geosynchronous Earth observation satellite imagery will show this, such as the video Planet Earth in 4K found in this now-deleted answer.

where the last two show even sharper reflections off of flat ice crystal plates in the Earth's atmosphere.

Here's an example of a particularly narrow reflection from the ocean, indicating fairly calm seas from Angular diameter of the Sun's reflection from the ocean, seen from Sun-Earth L1?

I just found this beautiful Videos Animation for Education GIF and though the conversion of science wavelength channels to false color is probably done with enhanced contrasts to highlight differences between structures rather than to appear realistic (which is what we see in apparently realistic photos made from weather satellites) it has the benefit of highlighting the reflection of the Sun on the water.

It certainly looks lot like this video at 02:30 where the caption says:

A timelapse of Earth in 4K resolution, as imaged by the geostationary Elektro-L weather satellite, from May 15th to May 19th, 2011. Elektro-L is located ~40,000 km above the Indian ocean, and it orbits at a speed that causes it to remain over the same spot as the Earth rotates. The satellite creates a 121 megapixel image (11136x11136 pixels) every 30 minutes with visible and infrared light wavelengths. The images were edited to adjust levels and change the infrared channel from orange to green to show vegetation more naturally. The images were resized by 50%, misalignments between frames were manually corrected, and image artifacts that occurred when the camera was facing towards the sun were partially corrected. The images were interpolated by a factor of 20 to create a smooth animation. The animation was rendered in the Youtube 4K UHD resolution of 3840x2160. An original animation file with a resolution of (5568x5568) is available on request...

Most probably not! But that being said, it also depends on "how far" you have travelled above the surface. The earth is surrounded by a multitude of different things at different levels from the ground, like clouds, smoke, satellites and satellite-debris etc. which we come across progressively on the outward journey.

At lower levels we may get a somewhat clearer view of the reflection, which typically would not be a complete spherical reflection but a bunch of rays/ glints, or a blurred bright light cloud. But as we progress further, most probably this view would be blocked out by the above mentioned factors. And in case of clear-skies too, a spherical reflection is highly unlikely considering the distance between the sun and the earth.