Spectacular ‘Ice Halo’ Photographed In The Swiss Alps

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An optical phenomenon called a 22° halo, was shot in the Hörnligrat Mountain by skiing photographer, Michael Schneider using an iPhone 11.  As he was skiing down the mountain, he happened to look back towards the mountain and was fortunate to witness this stunning event beginning to occur. 

Michael Schneider explains on his blog, “The sun had been attempting to break through the clouds for the past hour and I quickly realised that a halo was developing in the backlight to the sun.”

This ‘ice halo’ happens when light interacts with ice crystals floating in the air, causing this ‘halo illusion’ – a fascinating ring or circle and sometimes, even two form around the sun with many splendid light reflections. 

The inner perimeter of the circle can sometimes be red, and the outer is normally white. 

Most of this light is deflected or ‘bounced’, to about 22°, that in turn produces a dazzling inner edge of the circle. Some light is deflected up to 50° and that causes a blurring or distorting outer edge of the halo.

Even though quite common, it is nonetheless a spectacular sight to witness! At times not the whole circle can be seen, so to see and capture on camera the complete circle, is a treat.

Geophysicist Mika McKinnon states: “The crystals can be high up in cirrus clouds, or closer to the ground as diamond dust or ice fog. Just like raindrops scatter light into rainbows, the crystals of ice can reflect and refract light, acting as mirrors or prisms depending on the shape of the crystal and the incident angle of the light.’

This event occurred at around 11h00 in November 2019 on the Hörnligrat , mountain station of the Hörnli-Express and Urdenbahn cable cars.