Tuesday, October 20, 2009

sundog

Current work: Modern Heat
Listening to: Debussy
Reading: Anne McAllister: One-night mistress, convenient wife (enjoyed this one – especially the Brazilian grandmother. Anne writes wonderfully rounded heroes – very realistic characterisation)

Every so often, my nerdy streak appears here. Last week, it was prompted by seeing the crepuscular rays (scroll down to see the pic if you missed it – it really was that good).

This week, it’s the sundog I spied yesterday morning, at about 8.45. I’m back to taking my camera around with me, so – with a little help from my sunglasses as a temporary lens filter (and thank you, thank you, O traffic lights at a spectacularly busy junction, for turning red so I had time to take the pic) – here it is.



The official name of a sundog is a parhelion (Greek: beside the sun, which describes it perfectly). It’s formed by refraction of the sun’s rays through hexagonal plate ice crystals formed in cirrus clouds, and you’ll often see two of them (one either side of the sun), at the same distance above the horizon as the sun. Sometimes you’ll see it as a proper ice halo round the sun (and when it’s combined with a sun pillar, it’s spectacular – so far, I’ve only seen pictures, but I live in hope).

In 1461, just before the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross, apparently the parhelia were so bright that it looked as if there were three suns. Edward of York convinced his troops it was a sign – and they went on to victory. From then on, he adopted the ‘Sunne in Splendour’ as his emblem (and the novel of that name by Sharon Penman is utterly fantastic).

This is actually work-related, as there’s a scene in Temporary Boss, Permanent Mistress where Jake and Lydia talk about clouds and ice haloes. (Yup. Kate’s Northern Lights obsession does indeed extend to other atmospheric phenomena…)

Today's question: what's your favourite atmospheric phenomenon - and, if you've seen it in real life, do tell about the experience.

Righty... back to the Ard├Ęche and the heat of the midday sun...

14 comments:

Diane said...

What a fantastic picture. I've never seen anything like that. Ever.

Donna Alward said...

Northern lights. The best I've ever seen them was New Year's Eve many years ago. We were at the western edge of Calgary just after midnight and on top of a hill and they shifted and spilled. It was very cool. I've seen them since but not as clearly as that.

Shirley Wells said...

Wow. What a brilliant picture and thank you for being so nerdy and giving us that story. ;o)

I love the Northern Lights. When I lived in Orkney I saw them several times and the spectacle never failed to amaze me. Just awesome.

Anonymous said...

The double rainbow in the sky after rain or storm. It just brings a burst of happiness in the soul no matter what kind of a day you are having.

Nell Dixon said...

The other morning on my way to work as I went down a really steep hill I looked across and in the distance I could see Birmingham city centre towers all lit up pink and gold like a fairy castle poking out of a sea of grey mist. Magic isn't often associated with Brummagem but it was that morning.

Jan Jones said...

Rainbows for me. When it's that dark bluey-grey raincloud, I can always see a huge bright rainbow out of my kitchen window which appears to end in my friend's garden.

She has an incredibly well dug vegetable patch.

Lacey Devlin said...

It would have to be rainbows for me too. I'm disappointed I've never heard of a sundog before, what were they teaching me in school?

Kate Hardy said...

Diane - we get them a lot, especially at this time of year. I think it's because I wear sunglasses all the time - I notice what looks like a slice of rainbow!

Kate Hardy said...

Donna - highly envious, as that's something I'd dearly like to see. And how wonderful to see them on New Year's Eve.

Kate Hardy said...

Shirley - pleasure :o)

Y'know, I never thought of Orkney. I floated the idea of an October hols in Orkney next year. DH gave me a steely look. 'COLD.' (Might have to give in and agree to a summer sun holiday next year. And then I can say it's my turn to choose and the kids will also go for a cold one!)

Kate Hardy said...

Anon - mm, I love double rainbows, too. The very first day we moved into this house, we saw a double rainbow, and I knew we'd be really happy here.

Kate Hardy said...

Nell - wow. Don't suppose you had your camera on you?

Kate Hardy said...

Jan - how lovely that you have a spot where you can always see it. (Mine's my front door - and I can see that kind of sky from my office window.) LOL on your friend's garden!

Kate Hardy said...

Lacey - I found out what they were called a couple of years back, after (ahem) being very nerdy and reading a book about atmospheric phenomena. 'Sundog' is such a brilliant name, isn't it?