Footage from earlier this week shows pedestrians in Costa Rica gazing up as a vivid halo of color seems to billow out of a mysterious cloud.
The spectacular display of light was spotted in the sky on Tuesday in cities including San Jose, Escazu and Hatillo, according to ABC News.
The dazzling event was an example of a phenomenon called cloud iridescence, according to Peggy Lamone, senior scientist emerita at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
Judging by the video, Lamone said, it’s likely that something in the area — either the top of a rain cloud or a nearby mountain — acted as a barrier and pushed the air upward.
“When the air gets lifted upward and there is enough moisture, it condenses into water droplets,” Lamone said. “These tiny particles interact with the light by a process called diffraction. It separates the light, much like a prism, into different colors.”
“My suspicion is that the Sun was nearby,” she added.
The chances of seeing cloud iridescence depend on the season and where you live, Lamone said. Cooler temperatures offer the best conditions, and the cloud needs to be in the same part of the sky as the Sun.
If these conditions line up, and if you’re lucky, you just might see a display from the heavens.