By Chris Ciaccia
Published January 13, 2020
A photographer in the Swiss Alps has captured a remarkable image of an "ice halo," the moment ice crystals freeze in midair, creating a halo effect around the Sun.
Michael Schneider, a photographer in Switzerland, was skiing on the Alps recently when he saw the halo developing, British news agency SWNS reports. The quick-thinking Schneider pulled out his iPhone 11 and snapped the remarkable image on the Hörnligrat mountain in the Swiss Alps.
"I quickly realized that a halo was developing in the backlight to the Sun, initially very inconspicuous until this light phenomenon increased incredibly," Schneider said in comments obtained by SWNS. "I was fascinated by the two rings around the Sun and the many light reflections."
As the morning went on and the fog cleared, the ice rings continued to become more vivid, ultimately forming a complete circle around the Sun and mountain edges. Geophysicist Mika McKinnon said this phenomenon occurs when these minuscule ice crystals are suspended in the sky.
"The crystals can be high up in cirrus clouds, or closer to the ground as diamond dust or ice fog," McKinnon said. "Just like raindrops scatter light into rainbows, the crystals of ice can reflect and refract light, acting as mirrors or prisms depending on the shape of the crystal and the incident angle of the light."
For Schneider, the crystals are something much simpler. "These halos are simply fascinating," he added.