When I stepped outside to get in my car late this morning, it was impossible not to notice this really distinct rainbow ring around the Sun in the New Jersey sky.

Photo by Justin Louis

Being an unabashed lover of all things astronomy related, I had to take a picture right away.

I also knew that I definitely wouldn't be the only one to notice, so I did a little light research to share what I discovered.

This happens enough that there's actually a name for the phenomenon, a 22° halo.

The name 22° halo comes from the fact that the ring appears to have "an apparent radius of approximately 22° around the Sun" (if I'm being honest, math was never my thing, so I'll take their word on that part).

So why are we seeing a rainbow ring around the Sun today?

It all has to do with the weather not here on the ground, but way up in the atmosphere.

This morning it was mild, about 76 degrees when I stepped outside, and the humidity was pretty low (especially compared to how humid it's been this summer).

But the conditions further up in the atmosphere are considerably colder.

The rainbow ring around the Sun comes from ice crystals in the atmosphere refracting light from the Sun.

Unlike a traditional rainbow that we see because of water droplets following a storm, the ring around the Sun phenomenon is from frozen precipitation.

I've seen this plenty of times in the past, but today the ring was particularly well defined and crisp.

Did you get any photos of today's ring around the Sun? Feel free to share them on our Facebook page!

 

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