What Makes Sundogs, Halos, And Light Pillars

Finding the silver lining with these well below normal temperatures can be hard but we think we may have found one for you. 

When it’s very cold, we often see sundogs, haloes, and light pillars. Many are often wondering, “how does this happen?”

When it comes to sundogs, light from the sun refracts through ice crystals in the air. Sometimes those crystals are hexagonal and can bend the light. This creates those areas of light on either side of the sun.

It’s also the reason why you can see those bright spots of light as rainbows. Breaking apart the light breaks it down to its component colors. 

Sundogs are usually seen when the sun is close to the horizon around typically sunrise and sunset. 
Here’s an example with light refracting at the same angle on both sides. 

The same can be said for sun halos. This is light bending through the ice crystals causing a ring around the sun. This same optical phenomenon happens around the moon with the moonlight. 

A sun pillar is a little different. You have two of the same ingredients which are ice crystals and light but in this case, it’s light reflecting off of the ice crystals instead of refracting through them. 

They’re even more gorgeous and little ominous at night. This photo went viral on our Facebook page last month. It’s from Minot just before sunrise. You can see the city’s light reflecting off of the ice crystals. 

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