David Hathaway, a solar physicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, was going about business as usual yesterday afternoon when he suddenly heard an outburst of astonished voices. “People were saying, You gotta come out and see this,” he recalls.
Hathaway followed the commotion out into the parking lot of his office in Huntsville, Alabama, and saw this: the apparent high-beams of an alien death-cruiser barreling down on Earth. The old, familiar sun had changed dramatically since the morning, encircling itself with an armada of burning arcs, orbs and halos. Hathaway ran to get his camera, aimed it into the sky – was curtly told to stop propping his arm on a random dude’s car – and captured this incredible scene in glorious HDR.
Hathaway was familiar with sun dogs, and would spend the rest of the day reading about other solar phenomena like 22-degree halos, parhelic circles and upper tangent arcs. “Individually, they’re infrequent,” he says. “And we saw all of them.”
It is suspected that the remnants of Hurricane Sandy seeded the upper atmosphere with ice crystals, which result in the bending of light rays into these arcs. Really cool.