Double Sun Halo – Magic of Ice Crystals

Context:

A recent celestial spectacle in Ladakh captivated observers with the appearance of a rare phenomenon – the double sun halo. While sun halos are more common in certain parts of India, a double halo is a rarer sight, especially at high altitudes like Ladakh.

Understanding Sun Halos:

  • A Common Phenomenon: Sun halos, also known as ’22-degree halos’, are optical illusions caused by the refraction of sunlight through ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere.
  • Ice Crystal Magic: These ice crystals, typically hexagonal in shape, act as natural prisms, bending sunlight at specific angles. When millions of these crystals are aligned in a particular way, they refract sunlight, creating a luminous ring around the sun.

The Double Sun Halo:

  • A Rare Variation: The double sun halo is a rarer form of the standard halo. In this phenomenon, two concentric rings of light become visible around the sun.
  • Dual Rings: The inner halo has a radius of approximately 22 degrees, while the outer halo boasts a larger radius of around 46 degrees from the sun’s center.
  • Ice Crystal Formation: Similar to the regular halo, the double sun halo is caused by the refraction of sunlight through ice crystals in cirrus clouds. However, for a double halo to appear, the ice crystals need to be exceptionally well-aligned, with their flat faces parallel to the ground. This specific orientation is what makes the double sun halo a less frequent occurrence.

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