CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Whether or not you know the term, it's a good bet you've probably seen these before. They are the pretty rays of sunlight that sometimes stream through breaks in the clouds and can make for a beautiful picture if you catch a glimpse of them just right!
Did you know there is actually a meteorology term for these rays of sun light? They're called Crepuscular Rays (pronounced "kr?'p?sky?l?r").
The word crepuscular actually means of, resembling, or relating to twilight, so Crepuscular Rays literally means "twilight rays". This is simply because they most commonly occur during twilight (dawn or dusk) but in fact they can occur at any time during the day.
They are created when alternating dark and light bands (the dark bands are due to shadows from clouds, and light bands from scattered sunbeams) seem to diverge in a fan-like pattern from the sun's position.
From the American Meteorological Society (AMS) weather glossary: Crepuscular rays may appear as 1) shadows cast across the purple light by high, distant cloud tops or 2) shadows next to light scattered from sunbeams by haze in the lower atmosphere. Sunbeams seen during the day are sometimes called crepuscular rays, even though they are observed outside twilight.
Enjoy a few viewer photos I've received of Crepuscular Rays, and next time you see them, you can impress your friends and family by knowing the correct term!