Mysteries of some atmospheric halos remain unexplained after 5,000 years

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INTRO: For the first time in almost 5,000 years of observations, researchers have fully cataloged optical illusions created in the sky as light shines through ice crystals known as atmospheric halos. The atmospheric halo 'inventory' details frequently seen atmospheric optical illusions from known sources as well as shedding light on rarer halos, including ones with origins that are currently a mystery.

Halos are caused by the accumulation of water ice crystals smaller than 10 micrometers in the atmosphere. Qualities of these atmospheric illusions such as their colors or whether they possess arcs, spots or white rings, are determined by the shape and orientation of the ice scatter from and the path light takes towards these crystals. Often, the type of crystal behind the scattering can be identified by the shape of the halo they create.

These atmospheric illusions have been documented by humanity since at least the Babylonian era  —  which began around 1895 B.C.  —  when the phenomena were detailed on cuneiform tablets. However, thanks to the availability of cameras as a result of the proliferation of mobile phones, scientists have never had so much data on these phenomena at the tips of their fingers.

In addition to an intensive catalog of halos, this new research  —  which is founded on observations collected up until the end of 2021  —  highlights gaps in the study of the phenomena. The authors behind the inventory also lay out promising methods for both their further observation and the processing of collected data, urging the public to get involved in recording these phenomena using their phones and digital photography.

The complete catalog divides the phenomenon into 119 different types and also details the conditions such as temperature and humidity required to create them... (MORE - details)

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