Ulloa’s Rings and the Transfiguration

Mark 9:2 And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. And his raiment became shining, white as snow.

We began our hike of the Adirondack Mountains around 4 AM with the lofty goal to ascend six of the high peaks in one day (we succeeded, BTW). The sun rose early and the sky was clear and blue, however there were still clouds of fog surrounding the higher elevations of the mountainous peaks.  We reached the summit of Phelps mountain in no time where I witnessed a meteorological illusion of white luminous rings surrounding a tree which was off in the distance.  It was haunting and beautiful.

When we reached the summit of Mount Marcy we encountered the summit steward and told her about the apparition we saw. She said it was Ulloa’s ring, named after a Spanish naval officer, Ulloa. The rings are very rare. When conditions are just right and where there is a certain amount of moisture in the air,  sunlight, and the position between the object and the viewer are are at certain angles, the rings appear.

From “An Introduction to Meteorological Optics,” – His name is also recalled as the meteorological term Ulloa’s halo (also known as Bouguer’s halo), which an observer may see infrequently in fog when sun breaks through (for example, on a mountain) — effectively a “fog-bow” (as opposed to a “rain-bow”). A fog-bow is defined as “an infrequently observed meteorological phenomenon; a faint white, circular arc or complete ring of light that has a radius of 39 degrees and is centered on the antisolar point. When observed, it is usually in the form of a separate outer ring around an anticorona.”

After doing a little research I learned  that this phenomenon has been seen all over the world, usually in mountainous regions and it has had many names:  Ulloa’s ring, Ulloa’s halo, Bouguer’s halo, glories, white rainbow, fogbow and Spectre of the Brocken; among dozens of scientific terms.

Several years ago on Transfiguration Sunday I told my story to Leonard, the priest at my church, and he became incensed, refusing to hear my testimony. He said that he won’t listen to anything which tries to explain or diminish the mystical or holiness of Jesus. I told him that this was not an attempt to diminish what happened on the mountain that day with Peter, James, and John, but to show that the testimony found in Scripture about the sudden emanation of radiance surrounding Jesus was true, accurate, and possible.  He would have none of it.

So, whether you believe in Jesus or not, whether you believe that science and religion can exist together, whether you think that the transfiguration story is based upon fact or magic, believe this – a person can glow dazzlingly white early in the morning on a mountain top.  Meet me at four a.m.

-Malcolm Kogut.ImageImageImage

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