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Mesmerizing halo effect caused by blades of landing combat helicopters named in honor of two fallen soldiers

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27 July 2013

  • The Kopp-Etchells Effect was named in honor of two soldiers – one British and one American – who were killed in Afghanistan in 2009
  • The dazzling photos were taken by a photojournalist who covered the war, and who decided to start calling the halos the Kopp-Etchells Effect
  • When the two soldiers died, they were just 21 and 22 years old.

By Daily Mail Reporter
PUBLISHED: 22:32 EST, 26 July 2013  | UPDATED: 23:56 EST, 26 July 2013

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

article-0-1B01B26E000005DC-60 634x425Dust: Rotors slicing through dust clouds help create the halo effect that occurs when helicopters land in the desert

article-0-1B01B234000005DC-53 634x419Kopp-Etchells Effect: To honor slain soldiers who frequently viewed the halos, a war photographer named the effect after them

article-2379932-1B03EC69000005DC-46 634x662Hero: 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.

article-0-1B01B1D7000005DC-645 634x410Beautiful: the Kopp-Etchells Effect has been described as ‘one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see in a war zone’

article-0-1B01B03D000005DC-753 634x423Tragedy: The effect seen here was named after two men killed in battle in Afghanistan in 2009

article-0-1B01B066000005DC-166 634x397Cyclone: 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.

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