Mysterious three suns phenomenon appears on first day of winter

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What are these three suns in the sky? Yes these two bright, colorful patches of light on each side of the Sun.

Don’t worry, you are not seeing double or even triple, you are watching a sundog, which formed over Ukhta on the first day of winter!

sundog, three sun phenomenon, sundog anomaly, sundog russia, sundog december 2016
Kirill Viktorov via VK.com

Yesterday, for the start of Meteorological Winter, a mysterious three sun phenomenon, or sun dog, suddenly formed over Akhta, Russia stunning residents and skywatchers.

sundog, three sun phenomenon, sundog anomaly, sundog russia, sundog december 2016
Kirill Viktorov via VK.com

Sun dogs don’t bark and won’t eat your homework. What they will do, however, is amaze onlookers and get people pointing up at the sky.

sundog, three sun phenomenon, sundog anomaly, sundog russia, sundog december 2016
via VK.com

These bright mysterious spots on each side of the Sun are known as sun dogs (sometimes written as one word: sundogs). They’re often approximately 22 degrees to the left or the right (or both) and about the same distance above the horizon as the Sun. They’re also often seen as part of a ring or halo around the Sun. Sun dogs are known as parhelia (beside the sun) in the scientific community.

sundog, three sun phenomenon, sundog anomaly, sundog russia, sundog december 2016
Irina Litvinkovitch via VK.com

These weird phenomena form when there are hexagonal ice crystals in high, cold cirrus clouds. They can also form when ice crystals float in the air during extremely cold weather. Although sun dogs are more common when cold weather brings ice crystals into the atmosphere, they can occur anywhere in the world any time there are cirrus clouds.

sundog, three sun phenomenon, sundog anomaly, sundog russia, sundog december 2016
Kirill Viktorov via VK.com

Ice crystals in the air act like prisms, bending the Sun’s rays and refracting them in such a way that the dogs appear.

sundog, three sun phenomenon, sundog anomaly, sundog russia, sundog december 2016
Semyon Modyanov via VK.com

Scientists don’t know how the term “sun dog” originated. Some experts believe the term may have arisen by way of comparing how parhelia follow the Sun to the way a dog follows its master.

sundog, three sun phenomenon, sundog anomaly, sundog russia, sundog december 2016
Complicated sundog and halos on November 29, 2016 over Edmonton. via VK.com

The sun dog phenomenon can also occur at night when the Moon is nearly full and particularly bright. These moon dogs, or paraselenae, aren’t seen nearly as often as sun dogs, because the conditions necessary for their formation don’t happen very frequently.

Last time sundogs were photographed was two weeks ago in northern Russia during the polar vortex.

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