My comment: My heart goes out to the families of these 2 brave men that this photographer is honoring with this photo tribute. Too often we forget the casualities of war and the personal affect. These photo’s are amazing and imagine for an instant if this is a glimpse into the future that John saw in Revelation describing the locusts and Horses coming with the trumpet judgments. Or Joel even in his prophecies, or even Daniel, these men fainted and appeared dead at some of the visions they were given and had to be revived by the Angel visiting them. Just a thought.
Until recently, the dazzling visual effect caused by helicopter blades hitting sand and dust – and creating mesmerizing halos described as ‘one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see in a war zone – had no specific name; observers would simply marvel at the breathtaking sight without an understanding of what was causing it – or what to call it.
Now, however – to honor the memories of two soldiers killed in the war in Afghanistan – the physics that create these types of breathtaking halos has a name: The Kopp-Etchells Effect.
The effect is named for U.S. Army Ranger Benjamin Kopp and British soldier Joseph Etchells, and was given its title by a photojournalist Michael Yon – who was covering the war and captured the effect in dozens of photos – as a way to honor the fallen soldiers.
Pretty: Until recently, there has been no name for the halo effect that occurs when a helicopter lands in the desert
Dust: Rotors slicing through dust clouds help create the halo effect that occurs when helicopters land in the desert
Kopp-Etchells Effect: To honor slain soldiers who frequently viewed the halos, a war photographer named the effect after them
Hero: Corporal Benjamin Kopp was killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2009
Kopp and Etchells were killed in combat in Sangin, Afghanistan, in July of 2009. At the time of their deaths, the two men were just 22 and 21 years old, respectively.
Kopp was born in Minnesota and enlisted in the Army straight out of high school, working his way up to the rank of corporal in just three short years. He completed two tours of duty in Iraq prior to his fateful tour in Afghanistan.
Beautiful: the Kopp-Etchells Effect has been described as ‘one of the most beautiful things you¿ll ever see in a war zone’
Tragedy: The effect seen here was named after two men killed in battle in Afghanistan in 2009
Cyclone: metallic dust spins of the blades of helicopter to create the cyclonic appearance
Etchells hailed from Greater Manchester and joined the British army in 2003. He, too, rose to the rank of corporal, and had previous deployments before the tour in Afghanistan that ultimately took his life.
The stories of the two soldiers aren’t too dissimilar from many members of the armed services, and like most soldiers deployed in Afghanistan, the two men likely would have been witness to the stunning halos in the night sky that came with helicopters heading to-and-from various missions.
To honor the two men – and the brave men who, like them, spent countless nights escaping the horrors of war in the beauty of helicopter halos – Yon dedicated the effect to them.
Until recently, what caused the Kopp-Etchells Effect wasn’t entirely understood.
One pilot told the photog that the halos were ‘a result of static electricity created by friction as materials of dissimilar material strike against each other.’
Other theories were that the extreme speed of the blades moved dust particles so fast that they burned up like meteors in the atmosphere.
Frequent sight: Most soldiers in combat zones witness the Kopp-Echells Effect frequently
Sawdust: metal from the wing’s abrasion strips turns into a fine dust when it collides with sand and rocks from the ground
Combat: the beauty of the Kopp-Echells Effect is a welcome escape from the horrors of war
Science blogger Kyle Hill at Nautilus, however, explains the effect as the result of ‘when a helicopter descends into a sandy environment, the enormous downward thrust from the blades inevitably kicks up a cloud of sand. Cutting through the sand and dust, the blades smash into millions of these tiny
Hero: Corporal Joseph Etchells was killed during combat in Afghanistan in 2009
particles, each sandblasting metal from the blade. Most of the time the only visible consequence to the helicopter is pitting on the blades, with enough damage warranting replacement. Every so often, however, the metal blasted from the blades produces a miniature meteor shower.’
He goes on to explain that, to prevent deterioration of the blades, they are often coated with an abrasion strip, typically made of metals like titanium and nickel.
‘This abrasion strip can handle a lot of wear and tear, but the desert is a harsh environment,’ Hill explains. ‘Sand is harder than the titanium or nickel that makes up the abrasion strip, so when a helicopter’s blades begin cutting through a cloud of sand, the particles hit the blades and send bits of metal flying into the air.’
Those bits of metal come in a cloud of pyrophoric (flamable) particles, which ultimately burst into flames, thus causing the wondrous Kopp-Etchells Effect.