Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Photo of the Month – The Gloriole

There are many, many things in nature that catch one’s eye, and a rarer few that catch one’s soul. One such thing caught me recently that delighted me so that I thought I’d share it with you.

Its common name is a sun halo, but there are other names for it that can even challenge pronunciation –aureole (aw-RAY-o-luh or AW-ree-oll) or gloriole GLO-ree-oll). It’s a refracted circle of light around the midday sun caused by ice crystals in high, hazy cirrus clouds, showing a faint rainbow coloring within the golden glow. And though I have written about it before (and that post may be found here if you’re interested), its recent appearance motivates me to a reprise. 

This atmospheric phenomenon is not even particularly rare, in fact happens with some frequency. And there are two good reasons why they are often missed. (Perhaps I should say three good reasons, as it first requires the curiosity to pay attention to one’s surroundings! There are SO many glories in God’s creation that are simply there for the enjoying if we would be watchful for them.) But here are the reasons even seasoned nature watchers can miss them. First, one needs to look nearly straight up, high into the midday sky, and craning one’s neck is often neither natural nor comfortable. Second, the kind of high haze that produces the halo also makes for a very, very bright sky, one from which we would typically avert our eyes, so our natural inclination is to avoid its brightness. I might not even have seen it myself if my daughter Maren had not texted me a photo from her home fifty miles away, asking if it was showing where we lived. Sharing this glory with her made the experience doubly delightful. 

The best way to find one is to look up occasionally on hazy, sunny middays to check quickly for the circle or the glow; if you see something promising, extend your fist to arm’s length to completely block the sun’s orb. There it’ll be, surrounding your hand. (You can also try this with the more common early or late day sun dogs, aka parhelia or mock suns; it gives you a better chance to appreciate their color as well.) Then enjoy the splendor! If you want to take a photo and find it awkward while holding your fist high in the air (!), position the sun behind a light pole, treetop, or even a building. I happened to be volunteering that day at our nearby historic Admiralty Head Lighthouse when my daughter texted, so ended up going outside and letting the tower do my blocking. (Forgive the vapor trails in the photos -- when I went back at a later break, the halo was gone.)

Fun fact: do you remember seeing religious art that depicts noteworthy holy people having a halo hovering over or around their head? These are also technically called an aureole or gloriole in religious tradition, based on the natural phenomenon. (Want to see a cute movie? Check out Millions,” a truly charming story of a modern day child who sees visions of historic Christian saints.) And here’s something else that could be fun to try: if you happen to see a gloriole while walking with a friend or loved one, have them get between you and the sun’s orb and position their head to block it; then get down low and far enough away to snap a photo with the halo seemingly surrounding their head. This will surely be a memorable expression of the high esteem in which they are held!

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear! (Matthew 13:43)

From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets the Lord’s name is to be praised. (Psalm 113:3)

~~ RGM, June 15, 2024

No comments:

Post a Comment