Letter | Published:

Coloured Solar Halos

Nature volume 13, page 404 | Download Citation



IN his interesting scientific notes taken in the Himalayas, and printed in the last number of NATURE (p. 393), Dr. Arthur Schuster mentions the frequency of the occurrence, in India, of rainbow-coloured rings round the sun, and states that he has only once seen this phenomenon in England. The apparition of a complete iridescent circle is no doubt rarely seen, hut I have, since the winter of 1873–74, when I first observed them, so frequently seen fragments of such rings both in Switzerland and in England, that their non-occurrence, when thin white clouds are near the sun, seems to me to be the exception rather than the rule. In this country, and generally at low elevations, they are not easily detected by the unassisted eye, but in the high Alps both in summer and winter I have rarely failed to see them, when the sun and a thin white cloud were at the necessary distance from each other; they are, however, much more easily observed when the eye is protected from the glare by the neutral tinted glass which is frequently used for snow spectacles. The first and most vivid iridescent halo I ever saw, appeared projecting from the side of a mountain from behind which the sun was about to rise, near the summit of the Fluela pass, and about 7,000 feet above the sea. This was in the winter of 1873–74, and the thermometer stood at 19° Fahr. Last August and the first half of September I saw them almost daily on the Riffelberg and at Pontresina, and I have repeatedly noticed fragments of iridescent rings during the past autumn and winter in crossing Kensington Gardens about 9.30 A.M. In London, however, the blue and green rays are rarely visible, owing no doubt to their absorption by the murky atmosphere, whilst the orange and red rays easily reach the eye. On Sunday last, with snow upon the ground, I saw, through neutral tinted glass, the orange and red of the halo as the thin edges of clouds approached, or receded from the sun, and on Monday I distinctly saw the green also.

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