Sun dogs in Canada

I really shouldn’t publish any more of Diana MacPherson’s photos until she stops vandalizing the toilet rolls of her friends and in restaurants, but these were too good not to post. They are of a solar phenomenon that I would describe, but I’ve been writing all day and am too tired to look it up. So I’ll let the readers explain it.

The upside of cold weather are sun dogs (parhelion)! I captured this one a few minutes ago outside my house!
Sun Dog Sunset
And here is the solar pillar which usually appears at the same time. This is a pretty good one as it went way up.
Solar Pillar
I must say that I’ve never seen this phenomenon.

65 Comments

  1. still learning
    Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Good shots, Diana! We see those often in MN. It has to be very cold and clear for them to show up.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      Thanks! It’s the upside (along with clear skies) of cold weather. I hate that we get long nights and clear skies when it is so horribly cold outside! I need an observatory!

      • beyondbelief007
        Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

        I’m pretty sure i saw this same phenomenon mid summer, in Waukesha, WI as i finished a bike ride. I took pictures, but i’ll have to dig it up.

        For sake of argument, assume it is the same phenomenon: both can’t be explained by cold it seems.

        Other theories?

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

          It’s crystals in the atmosphere. It may not be cold down where you are, but it’s cold where the crystals form. I suspect there is greater chance of seeing the phenomenon in the winter because perhaps it is more cold up there more often.

          • gbjames
            Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

            Trust me, it is cold down here. ;)

  2. gbjames
    Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    That solar pillar looks a bit like an upside-down roll of red toilet paper that was installed wrong. No?

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      If you ever see red toilet paper, you should see your doctor!

      • Charles Sullivan
        Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

        Unless you eat beets.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

          True.

          • gbjames
            Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

            Aren’t “sun dogs” also known as “sky beets”?

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

              I think you should get your coat. :)

        • merilee
          Posted February 9, 2014 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

          TMI

        • Posted February 9, 2014 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

          Or it’s pre-use.

  3. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    Well, at least I clean my boots now. They never looked cleaner. Not correcting toilet paper – that’s a tall order.

    This from Wikipedia: Sun dogs are a:

    ….refraction of light from plate-shaped hexagonal ice crystals in high and cold cirrus clouds or, during very cold weather, these ice crystals are called diamond dust, and drift in the air at low levels. These crystals act as prisms, bending the light rays passing through them with a minimum deflection of 22°. If the crystals are randomly oriented, a complete ring around the sun is seen — a halo. But often, as the crystals sink through the air, they become vertically aligned, so sunlight is refracted horizontally — in this case, sundogs are seen.

    Solar pillars (or light pillars):

    A light pillar is a visual phenomenon created by the reflection of light from ice crystals with near horizontal parallel planar surfaces. The light can come from the Sun (usually at or low to the horizon) in which case the phenomenon is called a sun pillar or solar pillar. It can also come from the Moon or from terrestrial sources such as streetlights

    • Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      Great photos! Thanks for sharing. I have yet to see an “upside-down roll of red toilet paper that was installed wrong” in the sky, but hopefully I will some day. :-)

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think I ever want to see that!

    • John Taylor
      Posted February 9, 2014 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      Earlier this winter I saw a full rainbow like ring around the rising sun on a very cold morning. It was the first time in my life that I’ve seen something like that.

  4. Kuze
    Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Allow me to explain: A parhelion or “sundog” is caused by the sunlight reflecting off of the chemtrails that are placed in the atmosphere my secret government decree for a variety of nefarious purposes

  5. Eduardo
    Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    I immigrated to Michigan 37 years ago from a warm place and on very cold winter nights I’d occasionally see these vertical beams of light going up from streetlights. I thought I there was something wrong with my eyes (or some kind of sign from god). I just learned what they are: light pillars. Thank you.

  6. Kevin Alexander
    Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Diana,
    As far as I can tell there’s only a fifty percent chance that you are vandalizing the rolls.
    Over or under?

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

      Under. Always under.

      • gbjames
        Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

        And that’s why it spills out on the floor, like a solar pillar falling to earth!

        • Posted February 9, 2014 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

          I beg to differ. ;-)

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted February 10, 2014 at 1:32 am | Permalink

            I was just thinking of looking for that to link to. It’s an absolute classic. Each step Peter Sellars takes is entirely logical yet you can see exactly where he’s going to end up. He was a genius.

            • js
              Posted February 10, 2014 at 2:27 am | Permalink

              One of my all time favourite movies.
              I must have seen it around a dozen times.
              It is where I got the saying ‘birdie num num’ which I yell out when leaving bread outside for the crows (I mentioned this in the post about the raven).

          • Merilee
            Posted February 10, 2014 at 8:55 am | Permalink

            LOL – birdee numnums…I had forgotten about his wiping the paint off the Chagall…and his realllllly long tie.

      • BilBy
        Posted February 9, 2014 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

        ‘under’ – madness!

        • js
          Posted February 9, 2014 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

          I am a recent convert to under.
          Now it’s under. Always under.

          • Jeffery
            Posted February 9, 2014 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

            “Under” is wrong, and against all the laws of nature as it makes it harder for us catz to unroll the whole roll!

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted February 10, 2014 at 6:00 am | Permalink

              You spell too well for a cat. I think you are a fake cat!

              • Kevin Alexander
                Posted February 10, 2014 at 9:49 am | Permalink

                I can haz kollidge degri?

          • Hempenstein
            Posted February 9, 2014 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

            Agreed! Under/from around back.

            • BilBy
              Posted February 9, 2014 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

              It’s total inversions of the natural order of things, as ordained by the Bible – probably – like this toilet roll heresy that is causing all the floods and droughts in the world. Mark my ramblings.

          • Kevin Alexander
            Posted February 10, 2014 at 2:55 am | Permalink

            If you’re an over, get a cat and you will convert.

        • Posted February 10, 2014 at 7:08 am | Permalink

          I have a Nat Lamp from 1982(?) in which Harry Dean Stanton preaches ‘over’ as the one true way – with a photo I wish I could find

  7. phein39
    Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    I’ve seen these recently while driving through Iowa, when it was very, very cold.

    It was like unto a pillar of light, leading us through the wasteland unto the Promised Land of lutefisk and lefse.

    [Geez, is that how these things start?]

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      My parents call an effect where you see rays of sunlight poking through clouds, “Jesus clouds” because you always see pictures of clouds like that on religious greeting cards.

      • Posted February 9, 2014 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

        Nice photos, I’ve seen these a few times without the benefit of a camera

        I call those ‘jesus clouds’ ‘god rays’

      • JohnnieCanuck
        Posted February 9, 2014 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

        My parents used to say it was God drawing up the water into the sky.

        They are called crepuscular rays and are of course actually parallel to each other. Less often anti-crepuscular rays can be seen, which appear to converge on a point opposite the sun.

      • John Scanlon, FCD
        Posted February 10, 2014 at 2:09 am | Permalink

        I think of them as solar pyramids, because I read somewhere that this was the effect the Egyptian pyramid builders were trying to mimic.
        It makes sense that the Jesus cult would adopt such solar imagery, as the death-&-resurrection plot is so transparently about daily & annual solar cycles.

      • Mike Yonts
        Posted February 10, 2014 at 4:23 am | Permalink

        They’re always Cecil B. DeMille clouds to me.

  8. Hempenstein
    Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    Another thing that happens when it’s really cold is the smoke coming out of chimneys just descends down the side of the chimney. My organic chem professor was Canadian and told me that they’d look out the window at the stack from the power plant on cold winter mornings to tell just how cold it was. I watched for this when in Sweden and finally saw it one particularly cold morning.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 9, 2014 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      I saw that with the -25 C temps a few weeks back, while I was driving to work. You know it’s way, way too cold when you see that & you wonder why you are out in it!

  9. JohnnieCanuck
    Posted February 9, 2014 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, I think if you now take a moment to check for a sun pillar each time you see a sunrise or sunset, you will soon notice one. Sometimes the effect isn’t all that strong but this is the best time of year to see one.

    I notice them quite often here and this isn’t usually a crispy cold kind of place.

  10. merilee
    Posted February 9, 2014 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if Diana has figured out how to vandalize/hack those huge locked (!) tp containers in public bathrooms…

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 9, 2014 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

      Nope & it’s the only reason the TP at work remains uncorrected.

      • Posted February 9, 2014 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

        But many of those dispensers have rolls that roll parallel to the wall rather than perpendicular.

        So what is the correct direction of roll in that case? Toward or away from the…er…client?

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted February 9, 2014 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

          The ones at my work are in the over position & locked that way.

          • JohnnieCanuck
            Posted February 9, 2014 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

            You’ll just need to subvert the custodian away from the true path and lead him or her into the ways of darkness.

          • Posted February 9, 2014 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

            But what is over and what is under when the roll is parallel to the wall?

            Inquiring minds want to know.

            • Posted February 9, 2014 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

              (ie, as it is unfurled, the streamer runs the length of the wall, rather than projecting out from it)

              • Posted February 9, 2014 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

                (as you may have noticed, doing one’s duty in the Beef household is a rather august affair)

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 10, 2014 at 5:48 am | Permalink

                Yes, it seems very august. I imagine there are white velvety gloves involved. :)

                Do you mean when it is sideways? I think you can still get it to go under vs. over. Ant told me he has a dispenser like this.

              • Merilee
                Posted February 10, 2014 at 8:29 am | Permalink

                We may need to organize a field trip to everyone’s bathrooms, complete with kittehs doing demos…

          • merilee
            Posted February 9, 2014 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

            So somebody knows his stuff;-))

  11. bytz
    Posted February 9, 2014 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    I know it sounds weird, I think I saw a similar phenomena quite frequently on my early morning commutes around the northern portion of the capitol beltway in 2004 to 2005. I have not seen it as often as then, but I still occasionally observe it.

    As I understand it, it is caused by the way ice crystals form in the upper atmosphere and how they then focus or reflect light.

  12. pacopicopiedra
    Posted February 9, 2014 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    …and suddenly Neil Peart lyrics make sense…

  13. Chad
    Posted February 9, 2014 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    The Wikipedia info is correct, and as a pilot from Manitoba, I see variations of this effect very frequently. The same basic reflection is at work in a rainbow, and sometimes you get a little separation of light into colours with sun-dogs. If the effect is strong, you’ll get two concentric circles (or double sun-dogs), and any colours will be reversed as in a double rainbow.

    The orientation of the effect tells you the orientation of the ice crystals in the atmosphere. If the sun-dogs are pillars on either side of the sun (or moon, if it is full), the crystals are oriented vertically. If you see a vertical pillar on top of the sun, then they are mostly horizontal. Sometimes you get both, or a complete mix, in which case you see a ring around the sun. The same thing happens with full moons, but you probably have to be in an area with low light pollution to see it.

  14. Posted February 9, 2014 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Surely the title should be: “Sun d*gs in Canada”?

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 9, 2014 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

      Good catch!

  15. Jim Sweeney
    Posted February 9, 2014 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps the toilet paper controversy would be better described as whether the free end goes in front or behind. My family’s tradition, and the preference of at least some roommates, is having the free end in front. In my experience either is equally susceptible to misuse by kids.

    I hesitate to bring this up, but I’ve gone Japanese and use a washlet, a high-tech variant of a bidet, and don’t use paper any more. A stream of warm water, followed by a blowing of hot air, does a much better job of cleaning your butt than paper, it turns out. It’s a pretty pricey apparatus, but one I can recommend without reservation.

    • bric
      Posted February 10, 2014 at 2:50 am | Permalink

      Rabelais recommends a swan’s neck, you might want to try that

      • Kevin Alexander
        Posted February 10, 2014 at 2:59 am | Permalink

        I have tried that and the swan doesn’t agree.

  16. Posted February 10, 2014 at 3:24 am | Permalink

    Hee, I nearly didn’t even open this email because of the ‘d*gs’ in the title!


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