Attention skywatchers - checkout the 'sundogs'

First published in Opinion The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by

Now the weather has turned decidedly nippy, it's time for all you skywatchers out there to pay more attention to the sky during the daytime. Why? Because this chilly weather is perfect for triggering beautiful light shows in the sky around the Sun.

The most common things we see during winter are ‘sundogs.’ You'll have seen them many times before. They look like little patches of rainbow painted on the cloud on either side of the Sun when it's low in the sky. Astronomers call them ‘parhelia,’ and they can become incredibly bright - hence their other nickname, ‘Mock Suns.’ Also keep an eye open for Sun Pillars. These are tapering columns of golden light that shoot up from the Sun and again can become very bright. Like sundogs, they are usually seen after sunrise or before sunset.

Finally, on icy, hazy days, look out for beautiful ‘solar haloes,’ surrounding the Sun. Sometimes these combine with sundogs to create a stunning sunrise or sunset treat.

Stuart Atkinson

Eddington Astronomical Society of Kendal

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