By Sarah Wroblewski


BOSTON (CBS) – Have you ever looked up in the sky and seen a circle of light around the sun or moon? There’s an old weather saying that states “Ring around the sun or moon means rain or snow soon.”

Sure enough as we are getting ready for our next storm to move in overnight, some spectators Wednesday morning got quite the atmospheric sight in New Hampshire.

Rob Wright from Rob Wright Images captured this amazing atmospheric optical of not just one ring around the sun, but two of them.

(Image credit Rob Wright)

These rings or circles of light around the sun are called Halos. The most common halos have a radius of about 22 degrees around the sun or moon. However, sometimes you can get larger ones like we saw Wednesday in New Hampshire.

Halos form when high, thin cirrus clouds drifting 20,000 feet above our heads interact with sunlight. Cirrus clouds are made up of millions of tiny ice crystals. The way the sunlight hits these ice crystals and splits (refracts) and reflects the light is how these rings are formed. The crystals have to be oriented and positioned just right for the halo to appear with respect to where you are standing.

(WBZ-TV graphic)

Ice crystals are very tiny hexagonal-shaped columns, resembling a pencil in a way. A 22 degree halo results from sunshine passing through the ice crystal from one side and then out the other.

(WBZ-TV graphic)

Now if the sunlight passes through the ice crystal and comes out of the bottom, the light is refracted twice as it passes through and this bending process produces a larger halo around the sun with a radium of 46 degrees.

Of course if the conditions are just right, you can luck out like Rob and see more than just Halos. This morning, sundogs, tangent arcs and sun pillars were all visible from the way the sunlight passes through ice crystals in the sky.

(WBZ-TV graphic)

Sarah Wroblewski

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