While driving around lunchtime, I saw an airplane pass overhead, its contrail casting a shadow on the thin cloud layer below. I had my camera handy, and was stopped at an intersection, so I snapped a couple of shots. As often seems to happen, the first, haphazard one was the best.

The diagonal line extending down from the sun is, I believe, a sun pillar-like effect in the trails left by the windshield wipers. Also: Unless I’m mistaken, you can just barely see the edge of a halo in the feathery clouds at bottom center. It’s the slight reddening.

A few hours earlier, I saw this:

I glanced out the window while changing lanes on the freeway this morning & noticed the bottom edge of this halo. By the time I had a chance to stop the car and really look, the lower arc seemed to have disappeared, but the left side was sharply visible – as was a sundog. I rolled down the window and snapped a couple of photos while waiting for the light to change. Unfortunately, I couldn’t position anything to block the sun, so the exposure isn’t all that great.

By the time I reached my destination and parked, it had all faded except for a slightly bright patch in the clouds to the left.

While walking to lunch today, I spied a fragment of halo above the sun. (Whenever I notice a really thin layer of cirrus clouds, I always try to find an opportunity to block the sun and look for halos.) I tried to get a couple of shots with my phone, and figured I’d try enhancing them when I got home.

What surprised me is that the halo was not only still there after lunch, but clearer. On the way back, I stopped in several places with a building, or a sign, or a tree blocking the sun. The curve seemed too shallow to be a standard circular halo, so I wondered what I was actually seeing. Then I realized there was a faint halo inside the brighter curve, the two fragments meeting above the sun and splitting like diverging roads.

Then I noticed the sundog.

Halo Triplet

Three distinct sun halos. Not complete, and far from the clearest display I’ve seen, but certainly the most complex.

The brightest part appears to be the top of a circumscribed halo, which varies in shape from oval to kidney-bean depending on how high the sun is. You can just see the 22° circular halo branching off below it. Off to the right is a sundog.

It’s too bad I only had the phone, but it did manage to catch all three halos. I fiddled with the contrast a little to make them clearer, but they are visible without it.

And to think I saw this from the middle of suburban Southern California!

While driving toward the sun a little after 1:00 this afternoon, I noticed a faint reddish, slightly upturned patch in the sky ahead of me, and realized it was probably the bottom edge of a 22° sun halo. I was surprised, since the cloud cover looked too heavy for it, but it was there. At the next intersection, I looked out the side window to see if I could catch anything above the sun, and there was a clear arc running left of the sun, from a little below sun level to as high as I could see.

We stopped the car, found a tree to block the sun, and both looked. There was so much glare it was easier to see with sunglasses on, so I lent mine to Katie so she could catch it. Finally I grabbed the camera and took a few pictures, most of them using a gate post instead of the tree.

We ran some more errands, and I caught up with her at the grocery store. On my way from the car, I looked up and saw a perfect bright sundog to the right of the sun, much brighter than the clouds around it and showing the full red-to-blue spectrum. I should have gone back to the car for the better camera, but I used my phone camera instead, and got this shot.

I got to the edge of the lot just as Katie was leaving, and immediately said something like, “Look! Right above that palm tree!” Then I took off my sunglasses, realized that it was completely washed out without them (though it seems to have come out all right on my cheesy phone camera), and handed them over again. It continued to be visible, though less well-defined (it was a lot sharper than this photo shows) for at least half an hour.

A circle around the sun, and a bright rainbow-colored spot in the sky. I wonder how many people walking around never even noticed.

Last Wednesday, on my drive home from work, I spotted a sundog on the way home from work. I finally snapped it when I pulled into the parking lot at Trader Joe’s.

The picture on the left was the best of the set, with the best contrast. The red is clearly visible on the end toward the sun, and the reflection is clearly brighter than the surrounding clouds. The one on the right is actually two minutes earlier, and isn’t as good — except that it looks like there are two sundogs (something I hadn’t noticed when I took the picture). Presumably there was a gap in the cloud of ice crystals, and one half or the other drifted out of alignment.

Coincidentally, that was the same day that aeryncrichton sent me a link to these sky phenomena photos. They’ve got several halos, a pair of auroras, a double rainbow with supernumeraries, and a photo of star trails (which is technically a photographic artifact, but still looks nifty).