A halo around the sun yesterday, close to noon, left many staring in the skies, wondering what was happening in earth’s atmosphere.
In the city some voiced the opinion that the world may be coming to an end. And the phenomenon was seen right across coastal Guyana, especially since the day was one of the hottest and sunniest.
Telephones rang almost incessantly, with many calls being channeled to the various media houses. People called the city from the Corentyne and from the Essequibo Coast.
Even teachers telephoned seeking answers to questions being asked by the children.
A halo (also known as a nimbus, icebow or Gloriole) is an optical phenomenon that appears near or around the Sun or Moon, and sometimes near other strong light sources such as street lights.
There are many types of optical halos, but they are mostly caused by ice crystals in cold cirrus clouds located high (5–10 km, or 3–6 miles) in the upper troposphere. The particular shape and orientation of the crystals are responsible for the type of halo observed.
Light is reflected and refracted by the ice crystals and may split up into colors because of dispersion, similarly to the rainbow.
Sometimes in very cold weather optical halos are formed by crystals close to ground level, called diamond dust.
The crystals behave like jewels, refracting and reflecting sunlight between their faces, sending shafts of light in particular directions.
Atmospheric phenomena such as halos were used as an empirical means of weather forecasting before meteorology was developed.
In the case of the sun halo as was witnessed yesterday, the colours of the rainbow appeared in the reverse order with the brightest colours being on the inside as opposed to the standard rainbow when the brightest colours are at the top.
Sun halos are not unusual but they are so spectacular that their very appearance is a media event. CNN recorded one in the Florida Keys less than a year ago and broadcast the phenomenon in the wake of calls to the various television stations.
Observers say that there may be many more but these would pass unnoticed because people avoid looking at the bright source of the sun. Others avoid looking at what they cannot explain. The science community noted that sun halos are relatively common in temperate countries but they are not unknown in warm countries as was the case in Guyana yesterday.
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