Astrophotos: Halo Around the Sun in South Africa Today

Article written: 1 Nov , 2010
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
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Residents around Johannesburg, South Africa were treated with a rare astronomical (or actually atmospheric) sight — a halo around the Sun. These halos are striking to see, but unlike an eclipse, they can’t be predicted. Conditions in the atmosphere have to be just right, with moisture or ice crystals creating a “rainbow” effect around the Sun. Sometimes the halos surround the Sun completely, other times, they appear as arcs around the solar sphere. Basically, sunlight is reflecting off moisture in the atmosphere. These images were sent in by Alan Buff from Centurion, South Africa. See more below.

Another image of a halo that appeared around the Sun on Nov. 1, 2010 in Centurion South Africa; this one has a building blocking out the Sun itself. Credit: Alan Buff.

In folklore, these halos seen around the Sun or the Moon means precipitation is on the way, which makes sense, since moisture in the atmosphere usually makes it down to the ground. High clouds of ice crystals are called cirrus clouds, and these often form in at the leading edge of warm fronts that bring rain.

Newspaper and internet articles report that Johannesburg was buzzing about the weird halos; however, the explanation was simple and did not include aliens or end-of-the-world scenarios.

A halo appeared around the Sun on Nov. 1, 2010 in Centurion South Africa. Credit: Alan Buff.

Thanks again to Alan Buff for sharing his images with Universe Today.

Sources: eHow, NewsTime, NASA

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6 Responses

  1. Paul Eaton-Jones says

    Anyone care to bet on how soon the 2012 brigade jump on this and say, “Oooo look, there’s Nibiru just below the sun’s image”.?

  2. Jon Hanford says

    These seem to be simple (22 degree?) halos. What would they make of this recent Finnish display: http://www.spaceweather.com/swpod2010/31oct10/Sauli-Koski_key.jpg?PHPSESSID=om1bubb7fc5fqln5cdd28jrd53&PHPSESSID=7o5jikiqousddc4padqehq1p77

    (I’m guessing that the ‘star-like’ object visible in two of the images is some sort of optical flare and not the planet Venus, as it appears too bright and would seem to have noticeably moved between the two exposures)

  3. jamieball says

    Excellent images.. That one that Jon Hanford posted is truly impressive.. I saw a sun halo the other day too and managed to get a photo of it.. posted it to my flickr account if anyone is interested in taking a look..

  4. Manu says

    @ Jon H: probably more of a 22° halo + circumscribed halo mix, especially in the third image. When the sun is high they look very similar, and are always tangent at top and bottom, which are indeed sharpest in these images.

    I’m jealous to death of the people living in the cold places. I’ll never see such halo displays as in that link.

    @ Jamie: link please! 😉

    @ everyone interested, just in case you don’t know (yet) this fantabulous website: http://www.atoptics.co.uk/

  5. William928 says

    @MANU: Thanks for the link, it’s fantastic!

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