Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2021 August 30
Explanation: What's happening to this cloud? Ice crystals in a distant cirrus cloud are acting like little floating prisms. Known informally as a fire rainbow for its flame-like appearance, a circumhorizon arc appears parallel to the horizon. For a circumhorizontal arc to be visible, the Sun must be at least 58 degrees high in a sky where cirrus clouds present below -- in this case cirrus fibrates. The numerous, flat, hexagonal ice-crystals that compose the cirrus cloud must be aligned horizontally to properly refract sunlight in a collectively similar manner. Therefore, circumhorizontal arcs are somewhat unusual to see. The featured fire rainbow was photographed earlier this month near North Fork Mountain in West Virginia, USA.
Authors & editors:
Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
A service of: ASD at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.