Atmospheric optics never ceases to amaze us with its mesmerizing displays of light and color. One such captivating phenomenon is the Wendelstein Halo, a stunning halo formation that occurs around the sun or moon. Named after Mount Wendelstein in Germany, where it was first observed, this optical marvel enchants viewers with its ethereal beauty. Let's delve deeper into the intricacies of the Wendelstein Halo and explore the science behind its creation.
The Wendelstein Halo is a type of halo known as a 22° halo due to its characteristic ring positioned approximately 22 degrees from the sun or moon. This ring of light forms when sunlight or moonlight interacts with ice crystals suspended in the Earth's atmosphere. The crystals act as tiny prisms, refracting and reflecting light to produce this celestial spectacle. Unlike other halos, the Wendelstein Halo appears as a complete circle rather than a partial arc.
To fully comprehend the formation of the Wendelstein Halo, we need to understand the role of ice crystals in the atmosphere. These ice crystals typically take the form of hexagonal plates or columns, and they are responsible for the scattering and bending of light. As sunlight or moonlight passes through these ice crystals, it undergoes refraction, splitting the light into its constituent colors and creating a circular halo around the source.
The specific shape and orientation of the ice crystals determine the characteristics of the halo. For the Wendelstein Halo to form, the ice crystals must be oriented horizontally, with their flat faces parallel to the ground. This orientation allows for the optimal bending and refraction of light, resulting in the distinct 22° halo. When these aligned ice crystals are present in sufficient quantities, an observer on the ground can witness this breathtaking display.
One of the remarkable aspects of the Wendelstein Halo is its vibrant array of colors. The halo exhibits a spectrum of hues, ranging from the innermost red region to the outermost blue region. This color gradient is a result of the dispersion of light as it passes through the ice crystals. The shorter wavelengths, such as blue and violet, are refracted at larger angles, giving rise to the outer blue edge of the halo. Conversely, the longer wavelengths, like red and orange, experience less refraction and form the inner red portion of the halo.
Furthermore, the Wendelstein Halo can sometimes be accompanied by additional atmospheric phenomena, further enhancing its visual appeal. These phenomena include the upper tangent arc, the Parry arc, and even a secondary halo. Each of these features adds an extra layer of complexity to the already captivating display.
To witness the mesmerizing Wendelstein Halo firsthand, one must be in the right place at the right time. Locations at high altitudes with cold temperatures are ideal for its formation. Mount Wendelstein itself provides a perfect vantage point to observe this phenomenon, as it is situated at an elevation of 1,838 meters (6,030 feet). However, other mountainous regions or areas with similar atmospheric conditions can also offer opportunities to witness this ethereal halo.
Photographing the Wendelstein Halo can be a rewarding experience for both amateur and professional photographers. Capturing its delicate beauty requires careful composition and exposure settings to showcase its vibrant colors and intricate details. Patience is key, as the appearance of the halo is dependent on weather conditions and the presence of ice crystals in the atmosphere.
The Wendelstein Halo stands as a testament to the awe-inspiring wonders of atmospheric optics. Its symmetrical shape, vibrant colors, and intricate details make it a sight to behold. Understanding the science behind its formation only deepens our appreciation for this celestial phenomenon. So, the next time you find yourself gazing at the sky, keep an eye out for the captivating Wendelstein Halo and let its beauty transport you to a world of wonder and amazement.
22° halo from Mount Wendelstein, Germany Captured early afternoon January 6th by Claudia Hinz (atmospheric optics site). This scene does not need further words, just enjoy it! ©Claudia Hinz, shown with permission
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"Wendelstein Halo". Atmospheric Optics. Accessed on March 1, 2024. https://atoptics.co.uk/blog/wendelstein-halo/.
"Wendelstein Halo". Atmospheric Optics, https://atoptics.co.uk/blog/wendelstein-halo/. Accessed 1 March, 2024
Wendelstein Halo. Atmospheric Optics. Retrieved from https://atoptics.co.uk/blog/wendelstein-halo/.