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July 05, 2010

Rare Halo of the sun spotted in the sky

KOLKATA: A rare phenomenon was spotted in Calcutta on Monday 5th July 2010, called the 22 degree circular halo of the sun.

This is seen as a red & blue ring surrounding the sun & is caused by the deflection through ice crystals from cirrus clouds. The cirrus clouds are formed at an altitude of between 5 & 10 km from the surface of the earth & are caused when water vapour freezes, making the hexagonal shaped ice particles.

The halo phenomenon was seen between 10:30 & 11:30 am without any prediction, as this is something that is impossible to predict, according to Debiprosad Duari, the research & academic director of MP Birla Planetarium. The last occurrence of the 22 degree halo was in September 2008 & viewed in Siliguri.

Duari said the phenomenon had been caused due to refraction of sunlight against a particular type of cloud formation. "Hexagon-shaped ice crystals are formed when water vapour in the cirrus clouds freezes at an altitude of 5-10 km. Sunlight passing through these crystals gets refracted by 22 degree, thereby causing the ring-like shape," he explained.

The ring that formed around the sun was a little reddish in the inside & bluish at the outer edges. The area within the ring was also slightly less bright compared to other parts of the sky. This happens because the sun's rays passing through these ice crystals in the cirrus clouds behaves like prisms & deflects the light by at least 22 degree. Scientists 've shown that the geometry of the ring or halo is such that it's size is roughly 44 times the size of the sun.

This rare viewing of the 22 degree circular halo of the sun excited all who saw it & one amateur astronomer, working as a railroad employee, called up his family & 10 year old son to go outside & 've a look at how beautiful it was.

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