PHOTO GALLERY: Weekend sky puts on a show in more ways than one

Sunrises, sunsets and different atmospheric optical phenomena made for quite the show this past weekend

ROANOKE, Va. – Depending on the sun’s angle and water or ice content in clouds, we can get quite the treat in the sky at any point in the year. That was certainly the case this past weekend, with sunrises and sunsets adding vibrant colors to start and end our days.

You can see all of those featured in the photo gallery below.

Other atmospheric optical phenomena were evident over the course of the weekend too, which made for incredible photo opportunities. We explain how each one of them formed below.

Sun Dog

We’ll start with the sun dog, as captured by Ann Gibson in Galax.

Ann Gibson - Galax
Ann Gibson - Galax (Copyright 2020 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

This is pretty common, but usually occurs to the left or right of the sun. Hexagonal ice crystals float downward, and the sun’s light refracts or bends through those crystals. These are usually more red-hued than anything.


Next, we saw something known as a hole punch cloud or fall streak hole in parts of the area Saturday. These form when mid-to-high level cloud droplets are below freezing but aren’t yet ice (supercooled). These droplets need something to latch onto to finally crystallize.

When a plane flies through, those droplets crystallize and fall. A hole is left behind and expands as neighboring droplets turn to ice too.

Textbook examples were observed in Laurel Fork Saturday. One example comes from Nicole Pistory.

Nicole Pistory - Laurel Fork
Nicole Pistory - Laurel Fork (Copyright 2020 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

The second was photographed by Bruce Kinnaman and submitted by Laura Parnell.

Bruce Kinnaman - Laurel Fork
Bruce Kinnaman - Laurel Fork (Copyright 2020 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)


Lastly, a few of us saw what’s known as a circumzenithal arc or an ‘upside down rainbow.’ This is another example of how the sun’s light bounces off of ice crystals in high level clouds.

This type of arc is commonly seen directly above the observer (the zenith). The sun is beneath the arc, with the red hue closest to the sun. Two examples of this phenomenon were submitted to us over the weekend.

This first shot is from Jessica Davis in Vinton.

Jessica Davis - Vinton
Jessica Davis - Vinton (Copyright 2020 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

The second picture comes to us from MaryBeth in Roanoke.

MaryBeth Franklin - Roanoke
MaryBeth Franklin - Roanoke (Copyright 2020 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

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