Why does my rainbow airplane stripes appearing on Sentinel 2 image?

A few months ago I wrote a technical blog post (Planespotting) on intra-detector parallax effects in Sentinel-2 imagery, which can cause aircraft contrails to appear as rainbow stripes. The post also discusses inter-detector parallax effect and motion effects, which also can cause color shifts.

Here is a summary of intra-detector spectral band parallax:

  1. the Sentinel-2 detectors use a stripe filter to separate incoming light into distinct spectral channels,
  2. the angular separation of the channels requires the satellite to move in order to see the same point on the Earth's surface in multiple spectral channels, and
  3. the Sentinel-2 ground processing system uses the elevation of the ground to form the image, causing objects located above the ground surface (such as aircraft) to appear displaced when comparing different spectral channels.

Here is an illustration of the effect, courtesy of Don McCurdy:

Illustration of spectral band parallax