Strange sky phenomena

On June 10, 1991, riding a Greyhound bus on I-15 back from Las Vegas (I helped some former customers move into a house in nearby Henderson), I saw a strange rainbow in the sky–trailing around the sun like a multicolored ribbon. It appeared the same through all the windows I looked through, so I know it wasn’t an aberration in the glass. I even photographed it. It was shortly after noon. What would cause it? (The sky was almost cloudless.)
And, has anyone else seen odd sky phenomena? (Yes, I read what Cecil wrote about the “Roswell Incident.”)

Was it like a corona around the sun? It might have been ice crystals high in the atmosphere causing the refraction.

My guess is it was a halo caused by a layer of ice crystals very high in the sky. Haloes differ from rainbows in that rainbows are seen looking away from the sun and haloes are seen looking toward the sun. I don’t know the physics behind the phenomena, other than that rainbows are formed from reflected light (the fainter second rainbow sometimes seen is from light reflected twice) and haloes from transmitted light.

There is a very good book dealing with this subject but I can’t remember the name. It was written around 1950 but it is pretty detailed and the physics has been pretty well understood for a long time. It was something like “Light and Color in the Atmosphere”. That’s a big help, isn’t it? It’s like calling up the country radio station and asking them for a song – you don’t remember the name but it was sad!

“non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem”

Sun Dogs, at least I think that’s what they’re called. Halos or sometimes just partial halos, looking like ( o ). I’ve even seen several of them at different distances out like ((o)).

I saw one of these last summer and asked about it on the old AOL SDMB. I wish I had the explanations that a few of the brains gave to me. They explained it quite well and if I remember right, it did have something to do with ice crystals.

This site gives excellent treatments to all the related phenomena. For halos and sundogs, select “Enter Room #1”. But look over the whole site while you’re there.


I thank those who have answered me on this topic. But to clarify this matter, it didn’t look like a halo; more like a curved, trailing ribbon. (Less than a year before this, I did see a rainbow-like halo around the sun–and this, too, was at midday. Almost cloudless sky this time, too.)

It sounds like you’re talking about “coronas” or “iridescence”. Both are “colorful bands or patches observed in clouds in the general vicinity of the sun (or moon). They are caused by light being defracted by water droplets of a fairly uniform size in altostratus and altocumulus clouds.” (Thanks to the Audubon Society Field Guide To North American Weather, an excellent book on weather phenomenon.) Water droplets of slightly varying sizes will produce irregular patterns of color in the clouds, which might explain the “ribbon” effect you mentioned. You said the sky was almost cloudless on that day. I would bet that there were clouds where you saw this, but that they were very high and not very dense (did it look a little hazey?). I’ve seen some spectacular iridesence in the Sierra Nevada’s during the winter months. Kinda’ blows your mind if you’re not expecting it.

To Dirty Devil: The effect I saw on June 10, 1991, was about 100 miles east of Barstow, coming southwesterly on Interstate 15. The “halo” I saw on midday was in Manhattan Beach, CA, closer to where I live–to be specific, at Second and Redondo in Manhattan Beach. (Easy to find if you have a Thomas Guide.)

One interesting sky phenomena i have seen a couple of times was a rainbow on a cloud. Actually, it wasnt a rainbow but a patch of cloud with the colors of the rainbow on it. It’s hard to explain without a picture to show, but it was interesting. I have also seen the halo effect on the sun (Double also) and i have seen one around the moon (But those are mostly rings of light).

The strangest sky phenomenon I have seen was in San Diego. It happendd just after dusk, that time when there’s no yellow on the horizon, but there’s still enough light that the sky is deep blue rather than black. There was one or two clouds fairly low on the horizon; but very brightly lit. Much brighter than you will normally see at that time of day: normally a cloud at that time will be almost black.

I was perambulating around the web many months later & found an explanation of the occurrence. In fact, this group wanted details of sitings.