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Rare celestial phenomenon: Double Sun halo seen in Ladakh

This optical illusion occurs when sunlight refracts through ice crystals suspended in cirrus clouds, resulting in the formation of concentric rings around the sun

Recently, the skies over Ladakh stunned the observers—an uncommon celestial phenomenon known as a “double sun halo” was seen. This breathtaking event left spectators awestruck.

This optical illusion occurs when sunlight refracts through ice crystals suspended in cirrus clouds, resulting in the formation of concentric rings around the sun. While sun halos are not uncommon in various parts of India, witnessing a double sun halo is exceptionally rare. Unlike the standard 22-degree halo, which forms a single bright ring encircling the sun, a double sun halo features two distinct halos visible simultaneously.

The inner halo has a radius of approximately 22 degrees from the sun’s centre, while the outer halo extends further, with a radius of around 46 degrees. The formation of these halos depends on the specific shape and orientation of the ice crystals within the cirrus clouds. These hexagonally shaped crystals act as natural prisms, refracting and reflecting sunlight at precise angles.

Double Sun halo
Image Source: Wikipedia



According to experts, when these ice crystals are randomly oriented, the refracted rays create the inner 22-degree halo. However, if the crystals align horizontally with their flat faces parallel to the ground, an additional refraction occurs which results in the outer 46-degree halo. Such alignment of ice crystals is quite rare, especially in regions like Ladakh, known for its unique atmospheric conditions ideal for such phenomena.

The recent sighting of the two concentric rings of light surrounding the sun created a captivating display against the backdrop of the clear blue sky for the observers. Astronomers and atmospheric scientists find these halos particularly interesting as they offer valuable insights into atmospheric conditions and the properties of ice crystals responsible for their formation. Observations of these phenomena also contribute to improving weather forecasting mechanisms and advancing our understanding of atmospheric optics.

While double sun halos have been observed in other parts of the world as well but their occurrence in Ladakh remains relatively uncommon. This rarity adds to witnessing such phenomena for locals and visitors, highlighting the region’s natural beauty.

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