Horizontally oriented…

hexagonal plates.

DSC_8331No one undertakes research in physics with the intention of winning a prize. It is the joy of discovering something no one knew before.

Stephen Hawking

Or in this case, something that I did not know before.

This is an image from 4 years ago. It’s the one that began my study of halo and atmospheric phenomena.

I was driving home as the sun was beginning to go down and spotted what I thought was a patch of rainbow. I stopped to photograph it and wondered why I should be seeing it alongside the sun, about a hand span to the left of it, and not opposite to the sun where rainbows occur.

It would brighten then fade and I watched it until it disappeared altogether and the sun sank below the horizon.

I couldn’t wait to get home and research what I had seen. Little did I know at the time that this would launch in me a passion for clouds and the ice crystals that can be found in some of them.

This beautiful patch of color I discovered was created by horizontally oriented plate crystals drifting down through the sky.

This is the sundog, parhelia, or “mock sun”. Sometimes they are seen in pairs on either side of the sun and sometimes they appear along with that full circle, the 22 degree halo, around the sun.

Cirrus clouds, my most favorite cloud of all. Wispy and somewhat ethereal and chock full of ice crystals…

Photographing daily has made me more observant and at the same time more inquisitive. My camera isn’t just a tool for capturing an image. It’s the catalyst for my exploration of the natural world.

Where has your camera led you?

 

An atmospheric optic adventure…

and a thrilling email conversation with physicist Les Cowley.

DSC_7708-5

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.

Albert Einstein

Do you ever wake up and just know that something is going to happen?

Last Saturday I let the dogs out early in the morning and noted the appearance of some of my most favorite clouds…cirrus and cirrostratus. Those of you who know me well know of my love for photographing ice, snowflakes, and other crystalline structures found in the winter months so it’s only natural that these delicate clouds composed of ice crystal would draw my attention in the summer!

These clouds are the ones capable of producing atmospheric phenomena like halos, arcs, and iridescent clouds.

The first to appear was a 22 degree halo and iridescent clouds. As the day wore on and the clouds showed no signs of dissipating I started to feel excitement building that I might spot a circumzenithal arc, often called a grin in the sky as it looks like an upside down rainbow.

As the sun began to get lower in the sky I walked outside scanning all parts of the sky and discovered the appearance of a sundog. And then I saw it…circumzenithal arc! Moving quickly I tried to capture as many views as possible but couldn’t quell a nagging thought that there was also something in those images that I didn’t understand so after the last light faded I came inside to research halos on my favorite site atoptics. I came to the conclusion that the secondary arc that I was curious about might be a tangent arc but hoping for some clarification I emailed Les Cowley (atoptics), retired physicist and atmospheric optics expert.

I couldn’t have been more thrilled when I got a response back that began with congratulations, you saw two rare arcs-a supralateral and also a Parry arc. The Parry arc is named for William Edward Parry who diagramed this arc in 1820 while icebound on his search for the northwest passage.

This lovely man also took the time to provide me with an enhanced, labeled view of my image.

aoptics, Les Cowley-3

I’m not sure what surprised me the most, that I photographed these rare arcs or that Mr Cowley took the time to do this for me, a novice skywatcher who studies clouds and atmospherics in her spare time.

One of those days that I will remember for a very long time and as I shared with Mr Cowley, I’m afraid that you may have just created a monster!

His delightful response? Feed the monster…and I fully intend to!

If you’re interested in these ice halos I would encourage you to visit http://www.atoptics.co.uk where you will find a veritable treasure trove of information.

I can see your halo…

but did you know it could look different to the person standing beside me?

P1020001

Forests, lakes, and rivers, clouds and winds, stars and flowers, stupendous glaciers and crystal snowflakes – every form of animate or inanimate existence, leaves its impress upon the soul of man.

Orison Swett Marden

For me it’s not just about the image. The journey does not end with the click of the shutter.

I am always on the look out for the unusual. The shots that are transient and fleeting. While out kayaking I had expectations that my shots would be water based as we skimmed along the creek accompanied by eagles and osprey soaring overhead.

They were likely the reason that I glanced up at that moment and saw the formation of this 22 degree halo around the sun. Some of the clouds were similar to the ones that created last week’s image of the iridescent clouds.

I resisted the urge to dash home and research exactly what atmospheric conditions needed to align to result in this halo formation.

I learned that the circular halo is formed by not precisely aligned but by poorly aligned hexagonal crystals. Ironic how something poorly aligned could create something so precise. The halo appears darker in the inside because the smaller angles of the crystals don’t refract the light. The angle that it is viewed from can make it appear differently to each person and just like a snowflake each one is unique. The 22 degree halo is one of the more common halos.

A couple of notes…

The images that I share are shot in raw format with my Nikons. This image was taken with a point and shoot that I borrowed from my mother as the lens that I had on my camera could capture sections of the halo in greater detail but not the entire halo. While in a kayak I often limit my gear. All images are edited in Lightroom including this one but I always stay true to the image. If the image should be a double exposure or image overlay from my camera I will so state.

Be very careful not to look directly at the sun and especially not through the lens of a camera and don’t forget to look up!