A major spotlight display with possible 4th Tape arc component

On 23 November 2015, we were watching diamond dust halos develop under overcast skies in Rovaniemi. As we stood on a rectangular field a couple of hundred meters across, we followed halos slowly gather momentum in the spotlight beam, reaching climax when clouds were cleared away for a short while – and revealing at the same time also a lunar display. Here is an excerpt from Marko’s observation log written the next day:

“The display just adds gear. We are looking at beautiful subanthelic stuff, subanthelic arc, diffuse arc… It becomes monstrous when the cloud almost disappears. That is when we get also a moon display with full parhelic circle. No one seems to be in a rush to photograph the moon display. The beam display is sheer grotesquerity. The laser scapel sharp, 100% pure glitter of the tangent arc and uppervex Parry.”

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An occurrence of anomalous Hastings/Wegener

45820_e662e364876303651b6b4fbc10d66a83The image above shows what looks like a patch of Wegener or Hastings on top of the 22° halo. But instead of having the usual horizontal curvature, it is bending slightly downwards. Because of the view angle, though, the effect is not as evident as it could be. Anyway, if it were standard Hastings or Wegener, it would curve steeper up in the photo.

We have no idea how it formed, our attempts at simulating have come up empty-handed. The display was seen in Rovaniemi on 23 November, 2015, and the arc appeared at a stage when the display was still progressing to reach its peak.

Nine days later, in the beginning of December, we got another, better sighting, suggesting it is not exceedingly rare. In a similar manner, it did not occur when the display was at its best, but when the display was undergoing a momentary low. We will post about this later.

Jarmo Moilanen, Marko Mikkilä, Marko Riikonen

Segments of a circular halo from Moilanen crystals observed Nov 27th, 2015, on Mt. Klínovec (CZ)

During last year’s meeting of the German halo observers, we decided to drive on top of Mt. Klínovec (Keilberg) after dinner on Nov 27th, 2015. We used the car headlights as light sources for glittering diamond dust displays from ice crystals within the first few meters above the ground, while facing temperatures in the range of –5 °C to –6 °C at wind speeds of 5 – 6 bft. Simultaneously, there appeared a non-glittering, but slowly changing moon halo display in crystals higher up, including a “traditional” Moilanen arc:

2015_11_27_2003_30s_imgp3912_usm(20:03 CET, unsharp masked, for the original image see here)

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All rare halos are missing in this spotlight display, but why?

The mystery deepens. In two previous posts we wondered why some displays are great in their column orientation halos even though the crystals have well caved ends. Here we show a case that appeared on November 22, 2015 in Rovaniemi, where crystals seem not much different, yet rare halos requiring basal faces are completely absent. Even the 46° supralateral arc gives just a whiff. Poor crystal orientations can’t explain the absence of rare halos as the tanget arc is quite sharp. Had we known only about this display, we would be quite happy to explain with cavities, but knowing about the other displays, it is quite puzzling.

Marko Mikkilä, Jarmo Moilanen, Marko Riikonen



Making divergent subparhelia with spotlight


Here is divergent light subparhelia flanking the pillar. Spotlight displays are classical displays with little divergenness involved. A way to create truly divergent halos with spotlight is to point it to the ground. The reflection from snow then acts as a divergent light source. Another way that might work is to cover the lamp glass with a layer of snow. That would be a shorter lasting solution, though, as the heat of the lamp will melt the snow.

Most spotlight halos are visibly formed of separate crystal glitter. Not the divergent parhelia. They are solid objects floating majestetically in the air. One feels humbled before their lofty heights, just as a lesser subject might feel in the presence of royalty.

Below is another photo of divergent subparhelia taken some hours later. And also a little lunar display from the same night, which was the 18/19 January night in Rovaniemi.

Jarmo Moilanen / Marko Riikonen

The hiding sub-120° parhelion


Nothing out of the ordinary here. Just a plate display and its crystals. Visible are the usual folks: subcza, sub-Kern, sub-120° parhelion. The behaviour of the last one in spotlight displays is a little curious, though: while it comes out well in photos, visually it is cryptic. One has to run along the beam to see that ghostly spot of sub-120°. It is not made of big glitter like the sub-Liljequist parhelia – it does not seem to be made of much glitter at all, just faint diffuse spot of light.

Rovaniemi, in the morning hours of 19th January .

Jarmo Moilanen / Marko Riikonen


One display – three mysteries


It is difficult to get a matching simulation of pretty much any spotlight display. Some details tend to be always wrong. But one can usually obtain what could be called an acceptable approximation of the real thing.

The shown display is a true rebel in this respect, for it comes with three anomalies too blatant to be swept under the rug. First, the subparhelia were brighter than parhelia (this we noticed also visually). Second, of the Schulthess arcs (the arcs from Lowitz orientation) only the concave component was visible. And third, there is no subparhelic circle opposite to the lamp.


We can not simulate any of these anomalies. The solitary presence of the Schulthess arc concave component is not a new thing, there exists a handful of such displays. The missing of subparhelic circle opposite to the lamp in this level of display is something unheard of, as is the inverted relative brightness of parhelia and subparhelia. In the simulation above (light source elevation -5 degrees) only plate oriented crystals were used. Below is a sample of the simulation crystal shape variation, the “mother shape” shown in the upper corner.


The display had also a weak segment of parhelic circle between subparhelia. The crystal shape shown above struck the right balance between the sub-Kern and the parhelic circle segment inside subparhelia.

The night was 18/19 January, the location the Sieriaapa bog in Rovaniemi. The temperature was – 29° C.

Jarmo Moilanen / Marko Riikonen