Multiple viewers submitted us pictures of what appeared to be a rainbow next to the sun near sunset Friday. But these sightings were not rainbows at all. The sun must be at your back for colors in the sky to be a rainbow and in this case viewers were looking towards the sun. Closer inspection shows that a colored bright spot to the side of the sun at about the same altitude as the sun. There also wasn’t any rain. So what is this and what caused it?
These bright, colored spots are known as sun dogs. They sometimes form when the sun gets low in the sky and shines through a layer of cirrus clouds. Cirrus clouds consist of tiny ice crystals. When sunlight hits at the right angle and the ice crystals are positioned just right, the light is refracted horizontally separating the white light into the colors that make up visible light, just like a prism. Sometimes the light is split just right that it appears there are two additional suns on either side of the real sun. This has prompted sun dogs to also be called, phantom or mock suns.
Some also saw another phenomena known as a sun pillar, when the sun appears more as a vertical beam rather than a single bright spot. The same atmospheric conditions are responsible for this, so it’s not unusual to see a sun pillar and sun dogs together.
The next time you see cirrus clouds near sunset, keep an eye out. You might just see this fairly rare sight! Thanks to Aaron Schiff for this picture and the rest of our viewers who submitted pictures.
Copyright 2016 WXIX. All rights reserved.
National, world weatherWeather and disaster coverageMore>>
Wednesday, October 18 2017 3:11 AM EDT2017-10-18 07:11:07 GMT
Thursday, October 19 2017 9:51 AM EDT2017-10-19 13:51:15 GMT
The many thousands who lost their houses, condos and apartments in wildfires burning in Northern California will not only have to find or build a new place to live. They'll have to do it in one of the toughest...Full Story >
The many thousands who lost their houses, condos and apartments in wildfires burning in Northern California will not only have to find or build a new place to live. They'll have to do it in one of the toughest housing markets in the nation.Full Story >