The photo above posted to Reddit was taken by the Redditor Dstroyrofwrlds in Grindelwald, Switzerland, who says it was not altered with photoshop. He calls his girlfriend carrying the snowboard in the picture “the chosen one,” due to the sparkling halo of light around her.
The top comment on the thread of the social news website asks: Can anyone do some science and tell us how that happened?
We’ll do our best.
As some Redditors have pointed out the light appears to be bouncing off of thousands of ice crystals. What is happening is the phenomenon known as subsun.
According to Atomospheric Optics, subsun is an “ice halo formed by reflection of sunlight from the upper and lower nearly horizontal faces of plate crystals. The crystals act as millions of tiny mirrors to form a reflected image of the sun. When the crystals have larger wobbles from horizontal the subsun becomes a lower sun pillar.”
Basically, the Atomospheric Optics’ website stated, when the ice crystals fall, they often orient themselves with their horizontal face surface up, creating drag. It is this surface from which the light reflects. The wobble, mentioned above, is from the crystal itself falling. A lower sun pillar, also described above, is when the subsun effect seems to stretch even more in a column.
Subsun, based on photos, is more frequently witnessed from an airplane with the light reflecting back off crystals in the cloud.
Here’s another example of subsun on a snow covered mountain that attracted skiers:
According to the description in the YouTube video, the height of the “sparkly” column of light shrank as the skier got closer.
“Once I skied into the shade it disappeared,” the YouTube user wrote. “I feel very lucky to have witnessed this event.”