Explanation for why there is a ring/halo around the sun on Wednesday

Did you notice a rainbow ring around the sun today? It is called a halo and these are very common when we have high cirrus clouds in the atmosphere. Most of us think of ice crystals in the atmosphere as snow flakes, but you may not have known that they are more often hexagonal columns. 

These hexagonal columns are the mechanism that create these halos. When the sun or moon light shines through these columns, the light is bent and dispersed. As the light emerges from the crystal, it is bent normally 22 degrees creating the halo. Here is an example of the process from the University of Illinois website.

The light is bent as it moves through the ice creating the atmospheric optical display known as halos! If you want to see one, just look toward the moon or sun (use caution to protect your eyes from the sun) when we have high cirrus clouds and you should see a halo! They are pretty common and some suggest we have near 100 per year in most locations. 

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Debra CraigComment