Halo is the name for a family of optical phenomena produced by light interacting with ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere. Halos can have many forms, ranging from colored or white rings to arcs and spots in the sky
Many of these are near the Sun or Moon, but others occur elsewhere or even in the opposite part of the sky. Among the best known halo types are the circular halo, light pillars and sun dogs, but there are many more; some of them fairly common, others (extremely) rare
The ice crystals responsible for halos are typically suspended in cirrus or cirrostratus clouds high (5–10 km, or 3–6 miles) in the upper troposphere, but in cold weather they can also float near the ground, in which case they are referred to as diamond dust
The particular shape and orientation of the crystals are responsible for the type of halo observed. Light is reflected and refracted by the ice crystals and may split up into colors because of dispersion
The crystals behave like prisms and mirrors, refracting and reflecting light between their faces, sending shafts of light in particular directions. Atmospheric phenomena such as halos were used as part of weather lore as an empirical means of weather forecasting before meteorology was developed
They often do mean that rain is going to fall within the next 24 hours as the cirrostratus clouds that cause them can signify an approaching frontal system. Other common optical phenomena involving water droplets rather than ice crystals include the glory and the rainbow.