What is a Brocken Spectre?
A Brocken Spectre, also called Brocken Bow, Mountain Spectre, or Spectre of the Brocken is the magnified shadow of an observer cast upon clouds opposite the Sun’s direction. The figure’s head is often surrounded by the halo-like rings of colored light forming a Glory, which appears opposite the Sun’s direction when uniformly-sized water droplets in clouds refract and backscatter sunlight.
The phenomenon can appear on any misty mountainside or cloud bank, even when seen from an airplane, but the frequent fogs and low-altitude accessibility of the Brocken, a peak in the Harz Mountains in Germany, have created a local legend from which the phenomenon draws its name. The Brocken Spectre was observed and described by Johann Silberschlag in 1780, and has since been recorded often in literature about the region.
Here’s a collection of Brocken Spectre photos that I have taken over the years:
Mount Yale: Sawatch Range (2019)