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Unusual solar phenomenon seen at Wick riverside


By David G Scott

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There were two mini rainbows either side of the setting sun. It is known as a parhelion or sun dog. Picture: DGS
There were two mini rainbows either side of the setting sun. It is known as a parhelion or sun dog. Picture: DGS

An unusual solar phenomenon was witnessed over Wick riverside on Saturday evening with two mini rainbows either side of the setting sun.

The phenomenon is known as a sun dog, mock sun or parhelion and is caused by sunlight passing through hexagonal ice crystals contained within cirrus clouds.

Sun dogs are commonly caused by the refraction and scattering of light from horizontally oriented plate-shaped hexagonal ice crystals. Picture: DGS
Sun dogs are commonly caused by the refraction and scattering of light from horizontally oriented plate-shaped hexagonal ice crystals. Picture: DGS
A gull flies by the mini rainbow at Wick riverside. Picture: DGS
A gull flies by the mini rainbow at Wick riverside. Picture: DGS
There were two parhelia either side of the setting sun at Wick riverside with the right hand one being stronger than the other. Picture: DGS
There were two parhelia either side of the setting sun at Wick riverside with the right hand one being stronger than the other. Picture: DGS
This mini rainbow was seen on Saturday evening at Wick riverside and is known as a sun dog or parhelion. Picture: DGS
This mini rainbow was seen on Saturday evening at Wick riverside and is known as a sun dog or parhelion. Picture: DGS

The Met Office states: "In the right circumstances two sun dogs may appear with a slight colouration of red and blue. Sometimes only one will appear or one will be notably brighter than the other. Most often they will appear as two luminous areas either side of the Sun, with no discernible colour."

Sun dogs are best seen and most conspicuous when the Sun is near the horizon. The sun dogs seen at Wick riverside appeared as mini rainbows either side of the setting sun with the right-hand side one being much stronger.

Editor of the John O'Groat Journal and Caithness Courier, John Davidson, recently took a shot of a particularly striking example when out running at Blackfold near Inverness.

A 'sun dog' effect in the sky from the moor beyond Blackfold. Picture: John Davidson
A 'sun dog' effect in the sky from the moor beyond Blackfold. Picture: John Davidson

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