A few days ago I wrote of the Parhelion I was fortunate to see one early morning, appearing in our southeastern sky. On that same day towards early evening, I was again able to witness it, this time a sunset Parhelion directly west. It lasted nearly 45 minutes as the sun sank over the clear horizon.
I had been sitting on the sunporch enjoying the last rays of the day while reading a book. I glanced up to look out over the valley below and I did a double take as to what I was seeing. I’ve seen photos of a full Parhelion on the internet but never imagined I’d be viewing a nearly full one out my own window with nothing to disrupt the view other than a few jets passing overhead within the Parhelion. I wondered at that moment if the captain of that ship could see what was before, around or to the side of his view.
We’d had several snowstorms over the past few days so it was impossible to access the door to the open deck with all the snow piled against the glass door, with hopes of getting a crystal clear photo image of what I was seeing. So I did the next best thing by using my cell phone camera and a still camera. I ran between the sunporch windows and the bedroom window a short distance away, trying to capture the best angle and image throughout that 45 minutes of time.
It is unlikely I will ever see this phenomena in the sunset of the day again. But you can guess every cold and clear winter afternoon I’ll be watching for it…..just in case.
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.