This morning as I looked out a south window I was gifted the great view of a Parhelion, also known commonly as a sun halo, sun dog, whirling rainbow, sun pillars or sun spokes.
I witnessed this atmospheric optical phenomenon last winter as well. I wasn’t certain it was a Parhelion so I snapped some photos for reference later, and enjoyed what I was seeing for nearly an hour before it disappeared with shifting clouds and changes of atmospheric conditions. It was later in the day that I spent a bit of time researching what I’d seen in hours earlier.
A Parhelion is caused by a refraction of sunlight by ice crystals in the atmosphere and characterized by subtly colored patches of colored light, such as a rainbow is. It’s always 22 degrees to the left as well as the right of the sun and of the same altitude above the horizon as the sun. A perfect Parhelion can surround the entire circle of the sun giving a halo effect. Hence the given term sun halo. Parhelion comes from the Greek word parelion meaning beside the sun, such as it was called because it follows the sun as a dog follows it’s master. Sun dog.
In earlier times these Parhelions were given to superstitions. A change of weather to come, a sign of God’s presence and Grace, the birth of a special child were but a few.
It goes without saying what a gift of seeing a Parhelion can be. Conditions must be perfect for it occur and even greater if one can view it longer than 20 minutes before it dissipates. As like a good friend who comes for a brief visit, leaving me to anticipate the next one, the sun dog is a rare treat to witness and one I want to see again and again. I hope you too will see one someday.