MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -Sometimes, water drops and ice crystals can act as a prism. This allows us to see unique colors and cool displays like sun or moon halos, sundogs and sun pillars.
A halo is a light or a ring that forms around the sun as the sunlight refracts off ice crystals. Refraction is when the light inside an ice crystal or water droplet is broken or bent into colors like that of a prism. This is the same process in which rainbows can form. These ice crystals are found in cirrus clouds that are thin and high in the atmosphere. The halo is usually seen as a white ring although sometimes it can have color.
Sundogs are colored spots of light that develop due to the refraction of light through ice crystals. They are located approximately 22 degrees either left, right, or both, from the sun, depending on where the ice crystals are present. The colors usually go from red closest to the sun, out to blue on the outside of the sundog.
Sun pillars appear as a vertical extension of light above the sun, most often at sunrise or sunset. Sun pillars develop due to ice crystals slowly falling through the air, reflecting the sun’s rays off of them. The best time to look for sun pillars are when the sun is low on the horizon, and cirrus clouds are present.