Sun halo over India
© The New Indian Express
People in the Capital were treated to a rare phenomenon in the sky on Thursday. In an unusual sight, the sun was surrounded by a halo.The ring of light around the sun was witnessed between 10 am and 11 am. The spectacular sky view remained for over half-an-hour leaving the spectators awestruck.

"I spotted a ring like formation around the sun when I was on my way to office at about 10.15 am. It was really a spectacular sight. I had never seen such a scene before. Initially I thought something scary is going to happen but later I came to know that it was a halo," said Jitendra Nayak, a resident of Satya Nagar.

However, scientists reasoned it as an effect of both refraction and reflection of light from ice crystals moving in the space. Astronomers said such phenomenon occurs as reflection of light is produced at 22 degrees from the sun. The halo occurs when sunlight refracts through a high band of cirrus clouds around 7 km above the ground. The cirrus clouds contain millions of individual ice crystals formed out of super cooled water droplets in the air.

Deputy Director of Pathani Samanta Planetarium Subhendu Pattnaik said the cosmic phenomenon was a result of sunlight being refracted through hexagonal ice crystals high in the atmosphere. "The sunlight bounces off these crystals and changes direction giving the appearance that the sun has an extra halo of light surrounding it. It happens at a certain percentage of humidity level and position of the sun," he said.

Not only sun, the phenomenon can also appear around the moon. But, it is absorbed in the atmosphere as the reflected light from the moon is hardly strong enough for the halo to be visible. "Rainbows occur on the opposite of the sun, but the halos appear around the sun or moon. Since the moonlight is not very bright, lunar halos are mostly invisible. The colors of light are more noticeable in halos around the sun," Pattnaik added.

Source: Express News Service