Circumhorizontal arc over AL
© Johnny Raper
Johnny Raper was spending Wednesday afternoon at the Rockpile Recreation area near Wilson Dam in hopes of photographing bald eagles that sometimes visit there.

He got the photo of the bald eagles, but he also got a picture of something he had never seen before - a circumhorizon arc or as Raper calls it "an upside-down rainbow."

"I had been watching a juvenile eagle up in a tree waiting and watching for it to fly to get a photo," said Raper, of Florence. "I turned around to watch a pelican in the river and when I turned back to look at the eagle, there was this cloud with all these colors.

"I had never seen anything like it before, and I grabbed my camera and started trying to take photos. It was there maybe five minutes, I got three photos and it was gone," Raper said. "It was amazing. So glad I got to see it and got a photo."

According to Andy Kula, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Huntsville, a circumhorizontal arc is an "optical phenomenon" cause by ice crystals in the clouds.

"The ice crystals form in the clouds and the sun hits the crystals and that creates the colors and the image," Kula said. "These type things can be amazing to see."

Weather specialists said the circumhorizontal arc is usually formed in cirrus or cirrostratus clouds and the colors seem to be suspended in the air with what appears to be fingers streaming from the colors.

The arc that Raper took a photo of has blue, green, yellow and orange colors.

"Everyone who has seen (the photo) is amazed by it," Raper said. "I'm still amazed by it."

He said if he hadn't been keeping an eye on the eagle, he might have missed the arc.

"I guess I can thank the eagle for me getting the photo," he said. "To see those fingers coming down (through the sky from the arc) was enough to scare you. I stood there and watched it, hoping to see it longer, but it was there and gone.

"I love watching eagles and taking pictures of them. They are such a majestic bird and then to get this photo, it was a great outing, one I'll always remember."