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why is there a circle around the sun

Catch that odd earlier this week? Many people in the New York tri-state area, but the phenomenon is by no means limited to a specific area and is often seen around the world. So what is it? Also known as a or a sun halo, the ring is caused by sunlight passing through ice crystals in cirrus clouds within the Earth's atmosphere, the University of Illinois' Weather World Project 2010 explains. (See
for diagrams that illustrate how it works. ) The crystals bend direct sunlight, projecting it elsewhere into the sky, and at a certain angle -- you guessed it, 22 degrees -- a halo can be seen around the sun.

Ever seen a - a ring of light sometimes visible around the? Here's a cool 1 from @ Б US Dept of Interior (@Interior) While the beautiful sight may complement the springtime weather, the sun halo is not limited to a certain season and can happen anytime, anywhere, depending on the viewer's vantage point and the sun's position. However, the occasional sighting -- similar to a rainbow -- is more "when the northern jet stream descends southward, drawing down Arctic air masses," NASA notes. In case you missed it, check out the gallery below (in fullscreen) to see some of the best photos and videos.

RIngs around the sun are caused by cirrus clouds -- high altitude clouds that form above 30,000 feet. Cirrus clouds form when water droplets condense around tiny mineral particles in the air, then freeze. The clouds appear to form a ring around the sun -- or the moon -- when light reflects off the ice crystals and refracts by passing through them. Cirrus clouds typically appear in clear weather, but signal distant or approaching storms. This is because the water-and-mineral-laden air that forms these clouds is pushed up into the high reaches of the atmosphere -- where it freezes -- by warm air fronts moving underneath it.

Rising warm air causes storms. If you see a ring around the sun, it usually means there's a distant storm forming, which may reach your area in a matter of days. Halos and other solar and atmospheric events can be beautiful and riveting, but beware. You can sustain permanent retinal damage by looking directly at the sun, even in dim conditions. Never look directly at the sun, even if you can do so comfortably. You can't feel retinal damage and won't experience symptoms until several hours after exposure.

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