Sunrays and Atmospheric Optics

This week’s post features photos of sunlight and optical illusions created by sunlight reflecting off ice crystals in the sky. I do not get tired of seeing sun-related phenomena either in photographs or in person. Like a moth to a flame, I gravitate toward the light.


USA Antelope-Canyon.jpg

By Lucas Löffler (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Photo Description:

The Antelope Canyon in Arizona.

Date: 20 April 2006

Antelope Canyon Mittags.jpg

By Raimund Marx ( (Raimund Marx) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Photo Description:

Antelope Canyon, Arizona, USA, Summer 2005, photographer Raimund Marx ( The picture is a scan of a 2.5 x 2 inch medium format slide. It was scanned using a flatbed scanner. Published with permission of the photographer by Rhaessner 08:10, 8 February 2006 (UTC)

Date: Summer 2005

Crepuscular Rays

All of the photos in this section are examples of crepuscular rays. According to Wikipedia, crepuscular rays are “rays of sunlight that appear to radiate from the point in the sky where the sun is located.” Separated by “darker cloud-shadowed regions,” these rays of light are actually almost parallel to each other, and their convergence is a “perspective effect.”

The word crepuscular means that these sunrays appear around dawn and dusk, which are known as the “crepuscular hours.”

Source: “Crepuscular rays” — Wikipedia

Homburg Schlossberg.jpg

By Lokilech (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Photo Description:

(Editor’s Note: No English photo description is available.)

Deutsch: Weg auf den Schlossberg von Homburg (Saar) um 09:36 am 11. September 2010

Crepuscular rays with reflection in GGP.jpg

By Brocken Inaglory (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons


Photo Description:

Crepuscular rays, and their reflection. The image was taken in Golden Gate Park,San Francisco at Mallard Lake.

Date: 2008

Crepuscular Rays in GGP.jpg

By Brocken Inaglory (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons


Photo Description:

Crepuscular Rays. The image was taken at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

Date: 2009

Crepuscular rays in ggp 2.jpg

By Brocken Inaglory (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Photo Description:

Crepuscular Rays. In the middle left of the image one could also see a different set of the rays coming upward from the lake. The light source for these rays is the Sun’s reflection. The image was taken at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

Date: 2008 (2008-02-12, according to EXIF data)


By James Brown


Photo Description:

(Editor’s Note: No English photo description is available.)

日本語: 1月初旬の函館湾に現れた薄明光線

Date: 7 January 2012

Sun Dogs (also sundogs)

Wikipedia describes a sun dog as “an atmospheric phenomenon that creates bright spots of light in the sky, often on a luminous ring or halo on either side of the sun.” A sun dog is also known as a mock sun, phantom sun, or parhelion (its scientific name).

“Sun dog” — Wikipedia

Fargo Sundogs 2 18 09.jpg

By Gopherboy6956


Photo Description:

 Sundogs in Fargo, North Dakota. Taken February 18th, 2009.

Date: 18 February 2009

Sun dog at Stonehenge.jpg

By Timdaw


Photo Description:

Photograph of a Sun dog at Stonehenge

Date: 30 June 2013

Source: I took this photograph at Stonehenge myself Previously published:

Sun Pillars

According to WeatherOnline, a “sun pillar is a halo phenomenon of a vertical shaft of light extending upward or downward from the sun.” Wikipedia further notes that it is a “visual phenomenon created by the reflection of light from ice crystals with near horizontal parallel planar surfaces.”

“Sun pillar” – WeatherOnline website
“Light pillar” — Wikipedia

Bretagne Finistere Plouhinec 05002.jpg

By S.Möller


Photo Description:

(Editor’s Note: No English photo description is available.)

Deutsch: Sonnenuntergang am Hafen von Plouhinec (Pors-Poulhan) in der Bretagne.

Français : Coûcher de Soleil sur une plage de Plouhinec (Pors-Poulhan) dans le Finistère (Bretagne, France).

Date: 12.07.2005

Sunset in Saguaro National Park.JPG

By Yeahsoo at en.wikipedia


Photo Description:

Sunset in Tucson desert
exposure:1/160sec focal length 42mm Iso speed:ISO-200

Date: Taken on 11/24/2005 4:19Pm

Source: Originally from en.Wikipedia

Other Halos

Besides sun pillars, there are other types of halos such as the 22° degree halo ( a circle 22° around the sun). In addition, other phenomena can appear together with halos, such as the following:

    • Circumzenithal arc: a rainbow-like arc that forms no more than one-quarter of a circle centered on the zenith and on the same side as the sun
    • Parhelic circle: a horizontal white line on the same altitude as the sun (can also appear with the moon)
    • Parry arc: an optical phenomenon which occasionally appears over a 22° halo together with an upper tangent arc (a rare halo)
    • Upper tangent arc: an atmospheric optical phenomenon which appears over and tangent to the 22° halo around the sun

“Halo (optical phenomenon)” – Wikipedia
“Circumzenithal arc” — Wikipedia
“Parhelic circle” – Wikipedia
“Parry arc” – Wikipedia
“Upper tangent arc” — Wikipedia

Sun halo optical phenomenon edit.jpg

By Lt. Cindy McFee


Photo Description:

A halo around the sun from the NOAA Photo Library. The structures visible in the background are part of the South Pole Station.

Date: 21 December 1980

Source: Edited version of Image:410px-Sun halo optical phenomenon.jpg.

This is a retouched picture, which means that it has been digitally altered from its original version. Modifications: removed borders and dark spots. The original can be viewed here: 410px-Sun halo optical phenomenon.jpg. Modifications made by Diego pmc.

Additional Notes from “Upper tangent arc” — Wikipedia:

A halo phenomenon observed over the South Pole. Featured in the photo are several distinct phenomena: A parhelic circle (horizontal line), a 22° halo (circle) with a sundog (bright spot), and an upper tangent arc.

Multiple Halos 1.jpg

By Rudy23 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Photo Description:

Different Halos (optical phenomenon)

Date: 1 December 2012, 14:11:29


Today marks the second year anniversary of imaginenewdesigns. I cannot believe that I have been blogging for two years! I am so impressed by the talented photographers, artists, writers, and other creative and interesting people I have met through WordPress. Thank you for visiting my blog, and I would especially like to thank the people who took the time to like my posts, to leave comments, and to follow my blog. I appreciate your support! 🙂


3 thoughts on “Sunrays and Atmospheric Optics

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