It looks like a cloud on fire, splintered into a palette of warm colours across the horizon.Dubbed a “fire rainbow” by some, it caught the attention of a local amateur photographer, who captured images of the horizon at just the right time.Now shared and liked across Facebook, the meteorological phenomenon that Matthew Haskill witnessed Sunday at about 2:30 p.m. is known as a circumhorizontal arc, a rainbowlike formation caused by the sun hitting a cloud at a specific angle.
“It really caught me off guard,” he said. “I didn’t really know what it was.”
Haskill snapped the shots from his passenger seat window just south of Barrie on a weekend trip back to Toronto.With his camera locked in his trunk, Haskill had to use his android smartphone to capture the images.Happy with the results, he shared one of the photos on Facebook, and since then more than 1,500 people have spread it around the site.
“I didn’t expect that many likes, shares, comments,” he said. “It’s kind of astounding that one little photo would get so much view without any real intention.”
The optical phenomenon isn’t uncommon in Canada, but it only occurs once certain specifics are met, Weather Network meteorologist Patrick Cool explained.The sun has to be in the right position — at least 58 degrees above the horizon — and the right cloud, a wispy and high up cirrus formation, must also be in place.If the cloud is made up of the proper kind of ice crystals and the sun is aligned correctly, the crystals will act as a prism for the sun, producing a spectrum of colours that can last for hours.
In Canada, the sun is only in the right spot for about two months of the year, but the further south you get; the more likely you are to see these kind of formations.In the winter and for areas north of the 55th parallel, the sun never gets high enough on the horizon for this to occur.