Whoa, Circular Rainbow

I had no idea circular rainbows existed when we arrived at the monastery and I certainly hadn’t seen one. But Sasha pointed up at the sky and there it was.

Before we had an opportunity to Google it, we called it a circular rainbow because that’s what it looked like, but technically what we saw is called a sun halo. I can’t imagine what would have happened to the double rainbow guy if he’d seen this.

Directly above our heads in the middle of an almost clear blue sky there was a huge, perfectly circular, rainbow around the sun.

As we stood there gaping at it, we asked the monks at the temple if they’d ever seen it before and, assuming we understood their English correctly, they said “all the time.” However, our tuk-tuk driver called his wife to tell her to go outside and check it out. She then called their children, so we figure it couldn’t be that common to the area.

After Googling we discovered that sun halos come in a couple of different varieties. We’re pretty sure this was of the 22 degree variety, which is caused by tiny ice crystals in cirrus clouds doing what water droplets do for normal rainbows.

I took a bunch of pictures. Sadly it was so big that I couldn’t get the entire thing in a single frame, but I stitched two photos together that I took in sequence so I could give you an idea.

Have you ever seen a sun halo?

8 Responses to “Whoa, Circular Rainbow”
  1. Amy says:

    Wow – this is really cool!

  2. Keith says:

    Yep, that’s totally a 22 degree’er. I’d recognized it anywhere. Very cool.

  3. Chuq says:

    That is amazing!

  4. Christina says:

    Just saw my first solar halo when visiting Salem MA. 10/27/12. Google it….Just Beautiful

  5. Val says:

    A rainbow is a large band of aeadcjnt stripes of various colors that forms in an arc when the sun shines on water suspended in the atmosphere It displays the spectrum of colors, with red on the outside, then heading inward through orange, yellow, green, blue and indigo to violet.These colors appear through the prismatic quality of water (usually raindrops), which breaks up and refracts the sunlight at an array of angles, depending on its intensity The angle of the most intense light is between 40 and 42 degrees, which is why a rainbow takes the form of an arc.For a rainbow to be visible, the observer must be in a position between the suspended water in front and the sun behind, which explains why rainbows are seen most often in mornings or afternoons, when the sun is low in the sky If the sun is too high, it won’t be behind the observer and no rainbow will be seen Because of the necessary alignment of the sun and the rain, a rainbow can be seen from only one side.A rainbow doesn’t actually exist in the sky; it’s a visual artifice personal to the observer Each person sees a different personal rainbow at a different position in the sky, depending on where he or she is standing.Since a rainbow must face the observer squarely, it’s not possible to approach the sides or back of a rainbow, and this is probably how the expression “searching for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” came about: it can never be found, and the phrase signifies a futile search. +3

  6. sahnaz says:

    i too saw a 22 degree halo today from assam, india 2o april

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