All you want to know about Sun Dogs

When research about sun dogs begins, it is necessary to look at their influence on history as a major part of early cultures. Occasionally viewed as evil curses over certain periods of antiquity, sun dogs were also portrayed during other periods as omens of good luck for those who basked in their magical auroras.

Classical art over the years has portrayed them so vividly and brilliantly that early works of art have shown sun dogs appearing as an unnatural phenomenon of sheer beauty, mistakenly thought to be more than one sun in the sky. Other names for them throughout history are false suns or mock suns, appearing in the sky as multiples of the Sun itself-but their technical name is parhelia. What is not usually known is they have also been seen around the moon, hence they are then called “moon dogs.” Many of us remember our great-grandparents and grandparents watching the moon at different times of the year. When the moon dogs would appear out of the blue they would say, “weather was about to change”. This was not an untrue tale, as weather professionals have proven that sundogs, haloes, and rings bring about rain or snow within 36 hours, sometimes as early as 18 hours.

Considered an atmospheric phenomenon, sun dogs are thought to occur only in Polar Regions, but can be seen anywhere as a natural occurrence or common event. The only thing required to bring them about is high altitude cold air that has ice crystals in it- and someone to look up into the sky, of course. Accurate viewing geometry is necessary as standing in a particular location or direction brings about the refraction of incoming sunlight. This will suspend the ice crystals in the atmosphere, thereby causing the phenomenon of multiple suns. These images that are created by ice-crystals gently falling into the atmosphere of Earth will end-up parallel to the ground, ice-crystals developing as water freezes in the atmosphere. What will be formed are small ice-crystals that are flat and six-sided.

Not everyone has been able to view the sun dog or the sun halo, as the Sun is extremely brilliant and hard on the eyes. For those who have not, check out the WW2010 University of Illinois web site with all areas of atmospheric phenomena for the public to enjoy. But viewing them out in the open is the most spectacular viewing there is, occurring about 10 times a year on cold sunny mornings or even during the evening. Wait for the Sun to be near the horizon and when ice crystals are heavy into the air. It is an experience that will never leave the mind