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When looking at satellite imagery, you may see bright areas of light, mainly over bodies of water, that gleam or sparkle with unusual color. This effect is known as sunglint, and is where sunlight is reflected off the surface at the same angle that the sensor views it. Sunglint has also been seen reflected off of solar panels in large solar fields.

Although sunglint is often beautiful to look at, the phenomenon sometimes creates problems for scientists, since it obscures features that are usually visible. Thus, researchers have had to develop ways to screen sunglint-contaminated imagery out of data archives. This has been particularly helpful for oceanographers studying ocean color and phytoplankton.

Despite these challenges, sunglint does offer unique opportunities for scientists to detect smooth oil on the surface of water.

Sunglint seen reflecting over the ocean as the sun rises.
An example of sunglint. Do you see the sun reflected over the ocean as it rises?