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Detroit Sun Dog Phenomenon – What Is It?

January 7, 2019
sun dog

Many people in Detroit caught sight of something unusual in the sky Sunday afternoon. People were asking, “What is this?” and sending in photos to the local news station with photos. In fact, you can take a look at many Detroit residents’ photos here. If you saw this unusual phenomenon overhead, you may have wondered what caused it. What you saw are called a “sun dogs.” There was one to the left of the sun, and one to the right.

Sun dogs occur when sunlight hits crystals high in the atmosphere. Light refracts through the crystals and scatters. The ice crystals create glowing spots on both sides of the sun. A sun dog is also sometimes called a mock sun or parhelion.

Usually you can also see a 22 degree halo around the sun. This halo is also caused by a refraction of light through ice crystals.

You can potentially view Sundogs anywhere on earth during any season. However, they are not always bright and therefore not always obvious. You can see them best when the sun is near the horizon.

Sun dogs will be red-colored on the side nearest the sun. Farther out, the colors become orange or blue.

Some viewers also took photos of something that looked like an upside-down rainbow. That rainbow is the “circumzenithal arc”. It is also caused by sun light passing through ice crystals.

You should be careful when observing a sun dog. Don’t look directly into the sun. Wear protective glasses. Alternatively, use objects to block the direct glare of the sun.

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