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Cocoa, Florida, lightning by Chris Kridler
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Sun halos as seen in Rockledge, Florida, on February 10, 2021. Photo by Chris Kridler, ChrisKridler.com

I’ve seen an occasional sun halo here in east-central Florida, and I’ve also seen sun dogs. But I’ve never seen a halo of the complexity I witnessed the afternoon of February 10 in Rockledge. My best shot of the phenomenon was my first, with my phone. I got my “real” camera a little late to capture it when it was at its best. But it was still pretty amazing and lingered for a while.

There are names for all of the arcs you see in the images. The light effects are created when sunlight interacts with ice crystals in the atmosphere. And some of the best ones you’ll see are in cold environments where “diamond dust” ice particles hover lower in the air as well. That’s why I was so surprised to see these pretty decent effects in Florida on a warm day.

The round circle is a 22-degree halo. The bright lights in the ring on either side are sun dogs, or parhelia. Wikipedia helped me identify the other arcs. The upside-down “rainbow” at the top is a circumzenithal arc, seen resting atop a supralateral arc (this is visible as a faint rainbow-type arc in the wider shots). There also seems to be an upper tangent arc kissing the top of the 22-degree halo.

Now I’ll be anxious to see if I can catch this phenomenon again … before I can travel to a colder clime to get a really elaborate demonstration.

It’s been a spectacular few days for rocket launches on Florida’s Space Coast. Friday evening, Nov. 13, 2020, the long-delayed Atlas V finally launched with a spy satellite, and the twilight made for a gorgeous contrail as it headed to orbit. I shot photos from the Cocoa, Florida, waterfront.

Sunday night, Nov. 15, 2020, SpaceX launched its Crew Dragon capsule with astronauts aboard, headed to the International Space Station from Kennedy Space Center. I was lucky to get a spot on the NASA causeway, on the Cape Canaveral side, and got some interesting photographs of the launch. It was hazy and humid, and that humidity was a factor in my hazy streak shot. I decided to embrace the haze, and as I refined the photo in editing, I brought out the color. There were amazing colors in the contrail as the rocket headed to orbit … extraordinary reds and blues … and with some zooming (and later cropping), I caught some wild images. A bigger lens might have been better, but I was still thrilled to capture these psychedelic moments.

This gallery is a mix of both launches. The twilight shots are from ULA’s Atlas V. The darker shots are SpaceX’s launch.

Another Mars rover is on its way to the red planet after launching this morning from Cape Canaveral aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. One of the highlights of my time covering space for Florida Today was visiting one of the first Mars rovers during its processing at the Cape and going to the Jet Propulsion Lab in California to cover the excitement of Spirit’s landing on Mars. I love these science missions … relatively low cost compared with human missions, and the rewards are manifold. I wish Perseverance well on its journey.

I shot these launch photos from the edge of the Indian River Lagoon in Rockledge, Florida. It was a hazy morning, but Florida always offers fresh ways to look at each launch.