It’s nothing new. Troops have been seeing the effect on the blades of helicopters for quite some time, but it doesn’t mean the effect is any less beautiful or interesting.
Titled the “Kopp-Etchells Effect,” it was named in honor of two soldiers, one British and one American, both were killed in Afghanistan in 2009, U.S. Army Ranger Cpl. Benjamin Kopp and British soldier Cpl. Joseph Etchells. It was described as “one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see in a war zone.” Soldiers knew and had seen the phenomenon, but no one had a name to call it.
The cause of the effect is still a subject of debate. It is known that dust particles are hitting the high speed blades of the helicopters and are causing some kind of miniature explosions, but the exact mechanics and chemistry behind the effect is still unknown. Although beautiful the effect can be dangerous to pilots as the light given off by the effect can bring havoc to pilots night vision equipment.