SCIENCE
05/15/2013 02:00 pm ET Updated Jul 28, 2014

Ring Around The Sun Explained: What Causes Circular Halo? (PHOTOS)

Catch that odd ring around the sun earlier this week?

Many people in the New York tri-state area spotted the circular halo, but the phenomenon is by no means limited to a specific area and is often seen around the world.

So what is it?

Also known as a 22 degree halo or a sun halo, the ring is caused by sunlight passing through ice crystals in cirrus clouds within the Earth's atmosphere, the University of Illinois' Weather World Project 2010 explains. (See WW2010's website for diagrams that illustrate how it works.)

The crystals bend direct sunlight, projecting it elsewhere into the sky, and at a certain angle -- you guessed it, 22 degrees -- a halo can be seen around the sun.

While the beautiful sight may complement the springtime weather, the sun halo is not limited to a certain season and can happen anytime, anywhere, depending on the viewer's vantage point and the sun's position. However, the occasional sighting -- similar to a rainbow -- is more common in the fall, winter and spring "when the northern jet stream descends southward, drawing down Arctic air masses," NASA notes.

In case you missed it, check out the gallery below (in fullscreen) to see some of the best photos and videos.

PHOTO GALLERIES
Ring Around The Sun, May 2013

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