The double sun halo is the result of simple optics and suspended crystals in the atmosphere. And yet these beautiful circles have great significance for the movements of planets other than our own. It's either a strange cosmic coincidence — or proof that someone arranged all of this and is signing their handiwork.
Some of the most beautiful sights on Earth are the result of uncanny coincidences about the arrangement of the solar system. For one thing, the Moon, the sun and the Earth seem to be a very particular size and distance away from each other. When the Earth passes in front of the Moon, blocking the sun's light, its shadow fits over the moon pretty much perfectly for a lunar eclipse. Meanwhile, when the Moon gets between the sun and the Earth, it blocks out the sun perfectly. If any of these objects were any other size, or placed a different distance from each other, we wouldn't get the spectacular eclipses we do now.
But there are even more uncanny placements in the solar system, and they have their echoes right here on Earth.
When the atmospheric conditions are right, tiny ice crystals fill the atmosphere. They bend light coming in from the sun at a certain angle, creating a halo around the sun at an angle of twenty-two degrees. This is an ice halo. A double ice halo appears when other crystals bend light to forty-six degrees. On very cold, clear days, with a lot of ice bumbling around in the sky, entire sets of curved lines can appear around the sun, but the picture above shows the full glory of a double halo.
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Meanwhile, we see the sun every day, but the sun obscures the planets that move around it. They move around it at different rates, and at different distances from the sun. The two that are closer to the sun than we are, and whose orbits can be inscribed in our sky, move around the sun at about what we would see as twenty-two degrees and forty-six degrees from the sun. If you see an ice halo around the sun, its path is approximately the same as the mean orbit of Mercury. If you're lucky enough to see the faint impression of the outer halo (In this image, it's near the number two), you're seeing, roughly, the mean orbit of Venus.
There is no way the way the light that refracts from ice crystals can have an effect on the orbits on the Earth, Venus, and Mercury, making each of them line up in this precise way. So we can be forgiven for considering this just a bit on the spooky side. Of course, if they hadn't lined up in the sky the way they do, we'd never have noticed — we'd have gone about our business until we found something else that was a coincidence.
Still, even without the mystical connection, it's amazing to look up in the sky on a cold day, see a circle around the sun, and realize that a distant planet is roughly somewhere along that circle.
Top Image: Martyn Gorman
Second Image: Kojan