Intense Pollen Swarms Creates Rainbow Rings Around the Sun

pollen corona
A pollen corona in Turku, Finlald. Lots of pollen coming off the pine tree creates this phenomenon.

A photographer in Finland captured rainbow-colored rings around the Sun caused by pollen hanging in the air.

Mikko Peussa photographed the unusual phenomenon from the city of Turku near the Baltic Sea. Known as a “pollen corona,” swarms of pollen causes the sunlight to scatter into pastel rings.

“The pollen is coming from pine trees in the area,” Peussa tells SpaceWeather.

The sunlight separates into separate wavelengths when it hits the pollen’s surface. Some of the wavelengths interfere with one another, making some of the colors invisible to the human eye, reports Live Science, this is known as a diffraction pattern. The sparkles in the photos are caused by individual pollen grains.

pollen corona

pollen corona

To capture the pollen coronas, which only appear when pollen concentrations are very high, photographers will often use filters to block out additional light and make the colors stand out. The pollen corona can only be seen when the Sun is partially obscured.

Peussa was photographing pollen emanating from pine trees which produce pollen grains that look like tiny Mickey Mouses when looked at under a telescope. The “ears” are a pair of air pockets that help the grains float in the wind. They contain male sex cells of the plants and have evolved to disperse from their parent plant far and wide, floating on the wind to find female parts of another plant of the same species.

pollen corona

Peussa captured another set of pollen corona photos on June 8, this time the photo had a distinct sunset tone to them.

pollen corona
A different pollen corona captured on June 9.

pollen corona

“Pollen from pine trees are beautiful in the evenings,” Peussa writes on Facebook. “Back in the day when I spent a lot [of time] in Kemiƶ, I often said that the pine rings were strong there. Chemistry didn’t let me down this time either.”

According to research, pollen concentrations and the length of pollen sessions are increasing due to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide from human activity meaning pollen coronas could become a more common occurrence.

More of Peussa’s work can be found on his Facebook page.

Image credits: All photos by Mikko Peussa.