A rare and complex ice halo appeared in the sky above New Mexico on Friday, as a record breaking arctic blast continued to make its way across the country.
The optical phenomenon was photographed above the town of Red River, which has experienced sub-zero temperatures in recent days, according to the Daily Mail. Ice crystals suspended in the air interact with sunlight, creating a dazzling display of rings and arcs. The halos can be created either by sunlight or moonlight, and often occur within 24 hours before precipitation is expected.
Joshua Thomas, a photographer from Texas, captured the image of the New Mexico ice halo, according to UPI. The U.S. National Weather Service of La Crosse, Wisconsin, then utilized Thomas’ photo to create an informational diagram that points out each of the components of the ice halo.
Here is a superb halo display from Red River, NM yesterday morning. pic.twitter.com/swOtvLbvv5
— NWS La Crosse (@NWSLaCrosse) January 10, 2015
The multiple arcs that comprise the halo can be easily identified in the image, as well as the Sun pillar and a parhelion, commonly referred to as a “sun dog” or “mock sun.” Appearing when light shines through a thin cloud of hexagonal ice crystals falling with their principal axes vertical, parhelia present as luminous spots in the sky, 22 degrees to either side of the sun.
— Realtime SCIENCE (@RealtimeSCIENCE) January 11, 2015
Many of the details that are apparent in Thomas’ photograph are exceedingly rare, including the helic, infralateral, and supralateral arcs. More commonly, ice halos form a simple ring around the Sun or Moon, becoming much rarer as they increase in complexity. Some arcs are infrequently observed in ice halos due to the quality of the crystals involved, which can impair the displays if they are imperfectly formed. For example, the rays which create 46 degree halos are often blocked by column crystal end faces, which are usually poorly formed, making the 22 degree halo far more common than its counterpart.
— BuzzFeed Storm (@BuzzFeedStorm) January 10, 2015
Though beautiful, the ice halo is hardly the only rare celestial phenomenon capturing the attention of onlookers recently. As the Inquisitr previously reported, a meteor in the sky over Southern California caused widespread speculation when it was observed jettisoning a portion of itself earlier this week.
Cities from New England to the Ohio valley are being warned to prepare for colder weather in the coming days as the arctic blast continues its spread across the United States. The wintry conditions responsible for New Mexico’s ice halo are expected to last into the next week, possibly until Thursday.
[Image: Joshua Thomas via the Daily Mail]