Extraordinary Optical Phenomenon

Residents of northern Vermont were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime event Saturday.

Residents of northern Vermont were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime event Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014.

Traveling 92 million miles at 186,000 miles per second, light particles from our sun smashed into frozen H2O particles over the summit of Jay Peak Resort.

Thanks to the magic of Twitter, we all get to share in the experience. Tweets showing off the sky were flying, including plenty of help describing what it was we were watching.

The spectacular display was first called to our attention in a tweet from @erikosterlund: 

Then, other photos started coming in from other Twitter accounts. They were all from Jay Peak Resort.

RaceEICSL Jay Peak
Martin Hannigan (@RaceEICSL)
Hugh Johnson

It's called "refraction."

What is refraction?

When light particles impact ice crystals, the colors of the light are separated. Because red light travels a tiny fraction slower than blue and green light, it bends a tiny fraction more than its faster brethren photons.

Why so many angles and arcs? It's all in the geometry of photon (light particles) and Ice and air. It's a fascinating science. Steve Paluch (@BrewCityChaser) recommends this website for more on the science, called Atmospheric Optics.

A quick and easy labeling guide to the fantastic array was also shared on twitter by @ColdEarthWx, who found the image from spaceweather.com. It is not from Jay Peak on the same day, but close to the same display.

SpaceWeather.com (via @ColdEarthWX)

A low angle of the sun probably played a role, along with plenty of ice crystals suspended in the high-barometer inversion in place on this day before the 2014 Winter Solstice.

While we are on the solstice, we can share one more Twitter image from Ryan Knapp, an observer/meteorologist from the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire.

We are still expecting a powerful warm storm on Christmas Eve. Joe Joyce's blog post from Dec. 19 is in good shape.

We will have another blog post on the Christmas wind, and transition snow and major cold for the new year, soon.

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