This is what I found (information courtesy of livescience.com):
Patches of light that sometimes appear beside the sun are called sundogs. The scientific name is parhelion (plural: parhelia) from the Greek parēlion, meaning "beside the sun." Speculation is that they are called that because they follow the sun like a dog follows its master. Sundogs (or sun dogs) are also referred to as mock suns or phantom suns.
Sundogs are formed from hexagonal ice crystals in high and cold cirrus clouds or, during very cold weather, by ice crystals drifting in the air at low levels. These crystals act as prisms, bending the light rays passing through them. As the crystals sink through the air they become vertically aligned, refracting the sunlight horizontally so that sundogs are observed.
So now I understand why I am seeing these with increasing frequency lately. Of course, I might trade seeing these for seeing palm trees in 70 degree weather instead.
|Morning of January 9th near Perham|
|Morning of January 21st near New York Mills|
|Afternoon Double with the Sun in the Middle on January 23rd near Perham|
Linking to SkyWatch Friday.