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It’s never a good idea to stare directly into the sun, especially on a clear day.
However, some days, you can still see the sun, but it’s delicately veiled by a thin layer of cloud. That was the case on Sunday, April 26. Thin, wispy cirrus clouds started to work their way across the Maritimes early in the morning. By about noon, cirrostratus clouds were invading the region. Many of you spotted a beautiful ring around the sun. By the end of the day, I had received dozens of gorgeous photos from Mahone Bay to Inverness County, N.S.
That ring is called a halo; it can also be seen at night around the moon.
A singular common halo, or ring around the sun, is a 22° halos. It forms when the sunlight is refracted through millions of randomly oriented hexagonal ice crystals in the atmosphere. Scientifically, halos are called "22 Degree Halos" because the two refractions bend the light by 22 degrees from its original direction.
Did you know this ring can help you forecast the weather? The cloud that produces these hexagonally shaped ice crystals is the cirrostratus cloud; an upper-level cloud. It's known as a system forerunner, leading the way for wet weather. Most times, you’ll get rain or snow 12 to 24 hours after spotting the halo.
On Monday, Retta Stennick Flowers posted this comment among all the lovely photos on my Facebook page: “We were always told if you count the stars inside the ring that would be the number of days before a storm.”
I had almost forgotten that part of it. Is there any science to back that? Well, I suppose if the cirrostratus cloud was thin, you could see more stars. A thin veil of this high-level cloud would imply that the storm was still quite a distance away. Conversely, thicker cirrostratus would hide all but the brightest stars or planets; the thicker the cloud, the closer the storm. Grandma didn’t know the cloud-type or the science behind it, but she believed “ring around the sun or moon, rain or snow upon you soon.”
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Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network