Thursday, January 24, 2013

I Learned Something New Today

The past month here in Minnesota, and especially this week with the brutal well-below freezing temperatures, I have seen several sun-dogs that were almost vertical on the horizon. Of course, these sightings have been in the morning and late afternoon hours on my way to or from work. When I saw two at once, I knew I had to find out more information on the cause.


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.

17 comments:

  1. I've heard of them, but I've never seen one myself. Very cool =)

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  2. You've captured some beautiful sundogs, Sally! I saw the double ones on the way to the grocery store late yesterday afternoon. But of course I didn't have my camera with me. They were the biggest ones I've ever seen.

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  3. That is so interesting! I love blogging for just this reason. All of you teach me so much that I would have no idea was happening somewhere in this great world of ours! Thanks for the pictures and the explanation!!!

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  4. yup, i don't think i've seen a sun dog since moving to texas. just not cold enough.

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  5. Great discoveries and captures. I always feel special when seeing a sundog, and any kind of rainbow. But granted, I'd rather not be so cold when it happens. ;)

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  6. Those are really cool and I especially like the double ones! Thanks for the info!.I snapped a picture of one here yesterday afternoon that I'm going to post tomorrow for Skywatch Friday. Funny thing, it's not cold at all here!

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  7. Wow, nature can't be beat for beauty.

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  8. Beautiful shots of the sundogs!

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  9. I've never seen both sides at once.
    You got some excellent shots!

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  10. It's a sun dog, dawg! I have lots of pics of them. They charm Skagit Valley at tomes. Very cool. MB

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  11. Stunning captures! The third shot is awesome.

    http://www.womenandperspectives.com/2013/01/sky-watch-first-lady-statue.html

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  12. Great photos - especially the first and last ones (wow, a double!) Not surprised that packs of sun dogs are coming out to play, given your frigid temperatures in Minnesnowta of late. Oddly enough, one of the very few sun dogs I've ever seen was in Wyoming in June! I don't ever remember seeing one here in winter. Thanks for braving the bitter cold to capture these beautiful sun dogs for us, and enjoy a cozy weekend!

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  13. That's lovely. Thanks for sharing the information. I've seen one (not as lovely) and always meant to learn more.

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