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SUN DOG (perhelion)

two smaller bright spots appearing on each side of the sun

On a trip from El Paso to Salt Lake City (around Moab) my husband and I witnessed a most spectacular sight. On both sides of the sun we saw what appeared to be two smaller suns. It was beautiful!!! But we had no idea what we were looking at. We spent the night in Moab and watched the weather to see what was in store for our next day of driving. During his forecast, the weatherman showed a picture of what we had seen earlier. He referred to it as a Sun Dog. Living in Illinois up until 5 yrs ago, I had never heard of this term, nor had I seen anything similar to this. (I think there's a need for a higher altitude than what Illinois has.) The weather man went on to explain that the presence of a Sun Dog meant that within three days it would snow. Salt Lake City was really behind in snow and hadn't yet had a good snowfall. So I told my son about the Sun Dog and the weatherman's prediction. Of course, there were just chuckles. But the next day it began to snow ... and didn't stop for a long time. Coinsidence!?!?

I've been searching the net now for a long time, but haven't been able to come up with much of anything about the Sun Dog ... except for a short explanation and some beautiful pictures. It was the Folklore associated with the Sun Dog that I was really interested in. I'm sure the American Indians must have a mystical explanation for it. And how did that weatherman come up with the story about it snowing within three days of it's presence??

Anyway, I have some beautiful pictures of Sun Dogs and other atmospheric "optics" that i wanted to share. So .... I'll begin with the description:


Either of two colored luminous spots that appear at roughly 22° on both sides of the sun at the same elevation. They are caused by the refraction of sunlight passing through ice crystals. They are most commonly seen during winter in the middle latitudes and are exclusively associated with cirriform clouds. The scientific name for a sun dog is parhelion. They are also known as mock suns.
Similar to the parhelion is a parhelia. It, too, is referred to as a Sun Dog, but it has only one spot that appears at the side.

Story by Longtrail -The Sun Dogs of Winter

Sun Dog by Gerry Ellis
Sun Dog Photo
Sun Dog With Halo
Sun Dog with Halo
Sun Dog with Halo
Weatherwise - Parhelion Photo

AKM-Nebensonnen - Parhelion
AKM-Nebensonnen - Parhelia Gallery I
AKM-Nebensonnen - Parhelia Gallery II
AKM - Atmospheric Phenomena Index
Atmospheric Gallery - Includes Sun Dog

Parhelia Picture
Weatherwise - Parahelia
Parhelia - 7 pictures
Parhelia Example

AKM-obere Lichtsäule - Upper Sun Pillar Gallery
AKM - Upper Sun Pillar
Sun Pillar

Parhelion - Britannica Article
Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy
Sundog Article - Univ of IL
Weatherwise Mag - Beautiful Photos
USA Today Weather Article - Sun Dogs
Weather - A Complete Weather Page

The following sites are more for fun than information ...
but there may be some truth sprinkled about.

Project Atmosphere Australia - Weather Proverbs
Native American Folklore of the Stars
Solar Folklore - Great for KIDS

I would really appreciate hearing from anyone who might
have information regarding any legends about the Sun Dog.
How did it get it's name!?

suggestions...comments...bad links


Photo By AKM