Double suns legacy

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Photo of a sundog.

Photo of a sundog. Credit:

Calgary had two suns yesterday. At least that’s what it looked like to me. I wish I had brought my camera and I would have snapped a photo. But the flare would have ruined the picture anyway so I’ll share my experience with you through writing.

There must be a scientific explanation for what I saw. Two twin glowing objects metres away from each other (from my vantage point) in a cloudy sky. It was hard to tell the suns apart at first but then a red curve split the middle of the orb on the left. The arch turned inward towards the other object like it was trying to include its now not-so-identical copy.

While I was left with a mystery for a short it was cleared up with some research. I found that what I saw was a sundog. Sundogs are caused by the refraction of sunlight from either six-sided ice crystals formed in high and cold cirrus clouds or by ice crystals, known as diamond dust, in extreme cold weather that float in the air at low levels. Fascinating.

People have been observing sundogs since we walked the earth. Aristotle and Cicero both mention double suns in their musings. Shakespeare wrote about the anomaly. There was also a sundog that frightened English soldiers before the War of the Roses in 1461.

It’s interesting that even today in our modern world of conveniences, unlimited knowledge thanks to the internet and ability to travel anywhere including space, that we can still share an experience with someone from over a thousand years ago. That the sundog still possesses the power to awe. Still has the capacity to make us ask “what is that in the sky?” Still has the potential to leave us in wonder like the many people before us and, hopefully, after.


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