A Little Help, Please!

A while back, I was lucky enough to get a Canon Rebel DSLR that was slightly used, but in great condition, and since then I have been having a blast learning how to use it and how to take better pictures of my home and projects.

On the fall day I took it with me to Jordan Valley Park and downtown Springfield, I noticed a light leak that was happening when I shot into the sun. It looked like a half circle, like something was reflecting off the edge of the lens. Here's a couple of examples from that day:

More recently, I put my cat in the snow and tried to take some pictures of him (I'm a jerk), and with the bright white snow, the same thing happened again. 

This doesn't happen every time, just when the light is bright and just right, but when it happens, it's always in the same place. I've done a little internet searching, and I've come across some promising leads, but I'm still not even sure what words I should be searching for.

One explanation I've come across (and it's sort of common sense) is that the lens needs taken apart and cleaned. This involves purchasing a cleaning kit.

Another possibility is a light leak, but every source I have found on light leaks talks about them in a positive way. I like cool effects on my pictures, but I want to control them, and this is not something I can control. I want to be able to take photos without this weird crescent shape across the middle, and I haven't found any sites that address light leaks as a problem.

There's a store in my town that specializes just in cameras, so I might stop by and ask them. I hope this isn't a permanent problem with my beloved camera (although for the price I paid, I still got a pretty good deal, I guess). 

So, any thoughts? Anyone out there have a DSLR and had a similar issue? Are there any great resources you know of that might help me? 

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