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'Angel' in the sky photo caused by rare weather event

A U.K. hiker captured a rare sky phenomenon that appears as if there’s an angel in the sky with a majestic rainbow halo cresting its head.

Lee Howdle, a wildlife and nature photographer, captured the divine-looking event last Friday at the Peak District National Park in Derbyshire, about 20 miles southeast of Manchester.

The optical illusion is known as a Brocken spectre, and according to the Met Office, it often occurs on mountaintops when someone is standing above a cloud with the sun behind them. The “angel” in the sky was actually Howdle.

Howdle didn’t plan on capturing the spectre, he told USA TODAY.  He originally wanted to photograph a cloud inversion, or a sea of clouds. But as he was descending from Mount Tor, the tallest point at Peak District, he witnessed his shadow next to him.

Lee Howdle, a wildlife photographer, captured the divine event known as the Brocken spectre last week at the Peak District National Park in Derbyshire, about 20 miles southeast of Manchester.

“I looked to the left of me … and there was the Brocken spectre,” he told USA TODAY. “My shadow was ever so long and it was … in the middle of a circular rainbow. I was shocked and surprised to see it.”

In his time photographing the area, he’d never seen a Brocken spectre before.

“It was like an angel in the sky over the hills, it was quite magical,” he told SWNS.

The rainbow resting over his shadow’s head is known as a “glory.” Per Britannica, it’s the result of sunlight diffracted by water droplets in the cloud. They can also be seen on airplanes when they fly in sunlight above a layer of clouds, Britannica notes.

“I was over the moon to see I got some great photos of it,” Howdle told USA TODAY.

Brocken spectres, while rare, are not a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence: A man in Wales found the sight on New Year’s Day while hiking Snowdon, the tallest mountain in the country, reported the BBC.

Follow Joshua Bote on Twitter: @joshua_bote

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