The Marginal Phenomena

Visual Notes

As other cosmological events, the green ray either scientific[3] or fiction-based references[4] were, as it seems, firstly introduced uniquely by the European culture, once first publications mentioning it appeared in Europe. Even though there are reported green ray observations during expeditions[5] in other geographical locations, such as Indian sea or in African territories, they all appeared some decades later and were always reported by European navigators that already had previous knowledge about it.   

First known reports of the green ray appeared in documents dating nearby the year 1829[6] , despite the studies by W. Groff in “La plus ancienne observation d'un phénomène naturel ou astronomique,”(1893)[7], which associate the use of the green color over ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, representing the sun and death. He also suggested possible earlier observations of green rays in the sun set – but the fact is that there is no proven evidence of these observations, even though there is a large probability of their occurrence. References I found contesting it must be a long-known phenomenon, suggest it may actually not have been firstly discovered by westerns.

"Now, what is this thing that no one you happen to be with has seen or heard of, but which is as old as the Ocean and probably has been obscurely mentioned in thousands of old papers and argued over in forecastles and cabins for centuries?"[8]

We may also regard again at Flammarion reflections, who also transcribes a very interesting quotation by Diodorus Siculus, even though it lacks a precise bibliographical reference, it raises the questioning of the habit and the method, by saying inhabitants, the ones who are used to intangible observations, have by consequence, a different approach than strangers. Stranger’s lack of habit, is the cause which turns them particularly affected by such visual effects.

An extraordinary phenomenon occurs in Africa at certain periods, especially in calm weather; the air becomes filled with images of all sorts of animals, some motionless, others floating in the air; now they seem running away, now pursuing; they are all of enormous proportions, and this spectacle fills with terror and awe those who are not accustomed to
it. . . Strangers not used to this extraordinary phenomenon are seized  with fear; but the inhabitants, who are in the habit of seeing it, take no particular notice of it.

This assumption also denotate that western engagement with such low-visible phenomenon is actually not as efficient as it is claimed, by affirming it was discovered by Europeans. I argue that the lack of published reports in other cultures doesn’t mean it wasn’t a known event, and the only credits to Europeans regarding its discovery could only stand in the capacity and will of publishing it in scientific magazines and papers, many times over centralized in its own views. Unfortunately, it is true that there are no evident proofs of this statement, I still engage in this research with such assumption, once to me it is crucial to raise these questions about the actuality in western knowledge and its rapports to indiscernibility.

The first published reports from the XIX century seem to regard to green flashes more than green rays . Green flashes are often wrongly attributed to green rays, but there is a major difference, which is defined by the sudden appearance of a green sun in the case of green flash, as J.G. Wood refers to:

(. . .) what Mr. Cobbold (. . .) describes as a green `flash' is in fact a change in the apparent colour of a small sector of the sun during an appreciable, though short space of time (…) If we are to arrive at a satisfactory explanation, we must carefully distinguish the two phenomena.[10]

  The green ray has the particularity that it is defined not only by the refraction of the green color, but also by its vertical beam shape, which would only occur as the last brief glimpse of the sun; nonetheless, green flash reported observations are still relevant as part of an increasing knowledge on the specificities of these effects. According to Schaefer (1992) the green flash can occur in about 25 per cent of the clearest sunsets[11] (Schaefer is not referring only to the naked-eye observations, but he includes instrumental observations, such as lens and telescopes). As Greenler (1980)[12], who includes the commonplace telescopic observation of green flashes; Schaefer also seems to appropriate the same definition in his own terminology - hence the apparent high frequency of occurrence.

     The questioning about atmosphere colorations was being raised since Greek antiquity[13], however the first scientific explanation on the green ray causes and properties (distinct than previous reports which stand in descriptive observations) was introduced by James Prescott Joule, in a letter to the Manchester Literary and philosophical Society, in 1869 [14].  Relevant aspects of the green ray phenomenon were added by D. Winstanley, in 1873[15] , while the definitive explanation was proposed by Lord Rayleigh, in 1899[16].

[3] Corliss, W. R. (1984) Rare Halos, Mirages, Anomalous Rainbows and Related Electromagnetic Phenomena. Sourcebook Project, Glen Arm, MD

[4] Verne, J., et al. (2017). Le Rayon vert (illustrate), Clap Publishing, LLC

[5] Notes: This observation was made west of the southern part of Ceylon, on board the S.S. "Tosari", 12 September 1924, 6.15 p.m.

Verschuur, A. D. (1926) “Groene straal”. De Zee 48, pp. 446–448

Notes: Green ray report observations in Tibet

Knight, G. O. E. (1923) “Atmospheric optical phenomenon”. Geographical J. , pp. 61, 390

Swift, H.  and Davies, D. A. (1951) “Green flash, Indian Ocean”. Marine Observer, pp. 21, 218