Ring Around The Sun Explained

A ring around the sun was observed by residents in New Jersey this week. While the phenomena is unusual, it can be easily explained.

The ring is actually referred to as a 22 degree halo. The effect got its name as light exits a prism at a 22 degree angle. As the light exits the prism, it is separated into vivid colors. The sun’s halo, or ring, is created when light reflects through ice crystals, much like a prism.

As reported by the New Jersey Herald, ice crystals are found in cirrus clouds. The cirrus clouds are wispy and light in appearance. They are high clouds, several miles from the Earth’s surface that usually occur before rain or a storm.

Moisture in the cirrus clouds freeze into tiny ice crystals. As light reflects through the crystals, it forms a ring around the sun.

The halo effect is not seen often, as several conditions need to be met. The crystals must form into a “pencil shape.” Flat and round crystals will not reflect the light correctly.

The number of clouds is also a factor. If there are too many clouds, the rays of light will be blocked from sight. If there are too few clouds, the amount of moisture will be insufficient to form the crystals.

NASA.com explains that the halo displays can vary widely, as the altitude of the sun and the angle and size of the ice crystals are a factor. If the crystals are of “gem-like quality,” observers can expect to see “exotic halos, loops, arcs, and crosses.”

As reported by The Epoch Times, halos of light are not only observed around the sun. Halo rings can form, and have been observed, around the moon and artificial light sources. The halos are often observed around artificial light in the coldest winter months.

The ring around the sun is not a common sight. However, those lucky enough to see one have experienced an amazing display created by science and nature.

[Image via Wikimedia]