Sun Dog

Sun Dog viewed from Street Somerset. Click for larger version

During my recent holiday I became even more obsessed than usual with clouds. Somehow I found my focus repeatedly drifting upwards throughout the day. I found myself a witness to events of colossal beauty and subtlety. And often nobody else seemed to be noticing: perhaps I will have to join the Cloud Appreciation Society.

The picture above shows a ‘Sun dog‘ a rainbow-like pattern caused by hexagonal ice crystals in high cirrus clouds. Sun dogs appear about 22 ° on either side of the Sun – use the wiki page or Google to see more spectacular pictures. But actually I am quite proud of this picture not least because after Stephanie spotted it – I think I infected her with cloud-fever – I had the gumption to stop the car and take a picture. The picture below shows a close up:

Close up of the Sun Dog

Close up of the Sun Dog: Click for a larger version

But I also took literally hundreds of photographs of other non-specific but – to me at least – breathtakingly beautiful cloud scenes. The images show a complexity and a subtlety that astounds me. For instance this evening I walked out the front door and took this picture showing delicate linear cloud structures.

Above Church Road Teddington - Notice the filigree layers of cloud

Above Church Road Teddington - Notice the filigree layers of cloud: Click for larger version

Or this one – again taken this evening – showing cirrus clouds formed from contrails.

Cirrus clouds formed by aircraft contrails

Cirrus clouds formed by aircraft contrails: Click for larger version.

Seeing these celestial events reminds me of just what a breathtakingly beautiful world we are living in. And how it is possible to live most of a lifetime focussed on the ‘down to earth’ and to fail to notice even the grandest events taking place just above our eye-line.


I was e-mailed by the amazing Nick Day who suggested making a lifetime ‘I Spy’ list of celestial phenomena. Nick has seen all these:

  • Secondary rainbow
  • Supernumary rainbows
  • Polarisation of rainbow
  • Heidinger’s brushes
  • Rainbow at sunset (very red biased)
  • Alexander’s dark band
  • Moonbow
  • Corona
  • Irisation
  • 22-degree halo (sun)
  • 22-degree halo (moon)
  • Parhelic circle
  • Circumzenithal arc (quite common but oft-overlooked as overhead)
But has yet to see
  • 46-degree halo (moon)
  • Upper tangent arc (22-degree)
  • Liljequist parhelion
  • Aurora
  • 46-degree halo (sun)
  • Antihelic arcs of various descriptions
  • Parry arcs

Now I need to find out what all these are!



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