What's that ring around the sun? - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

What's that ring around the sun?

Solar halo photo taken by Kassandra Wright Solar halo photo taken by Kassandra Wright

Today Kassandra Wright sent us a photo she took of what she considered to be strange sight-- a ring around the sun.  She wondered just what it could be.  

We get many similar photos and inquiries each year from viewers wanting to know what it is and why it occurs.  It's actually a rather common question and a common sight here in the Mid-South, and around the world.  

The image Kassandra captured is that of a solar halo. The halo can occur around the moon at night as well, known as a lunar halo.  There's even a weather lore, "ring around the moon means rain soon" and there's a little bit of truth to that.  

The ring is caused by high altitude cirrus clouds which often move in in advance of the next round of rain clouds.  Light from the sun or moon shines through cirrus clouds, which are primarily made of tiny ice crystals, and is refracted, or split, to form the ring.  If you observe it from the right angle here at the surface then you see the halo around the sun or moon.

And if your angle is just right, then you can also see the halo as a rainbow of color.  The rainbow halos are more common during the day with the sun rather than at night with the moon when the light isn't as bright.  

However, either is a beautiful sight, night or day.

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