Death Valley Dog

July 17, 2004


Provided and copyright by: Judy Mosby
Summary authors & editors: Jim Foster; Judy Mosby

The above photo showing a fetching sundog or parahelia was taken on the afternoon of November 6, 2003 from Death Valley National Park (near Dante's View) in California. This one was hard not to notice and was one of the most distinct sundogs I had yet observed.

A sundog results when sunlight passes through a thin layer of hexagonal ice crystals, either contained within cirrus cloud or falling at lower levels. They occur only when plate-shaped crystals are oriented horizontally. Sometimes these colorful patches of light appear on both sides of the Sun -- found 22 degrees or about two fists held at arm's length from the Sun. They're found at the same altitude as the Sun and never less than 22 degrees from it. Sundogs are reddish on the side facing the Sun, and as is evidenced on this photo, may have a bluish-white tail extending away from the Sun.

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