ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

All You Want to Know About Sundogs

Updated on October 1, 2011


Sundogs over water
Sundogs over water
Sundogs with a reflective arc over the sun
Sundogs with a reflective arc over the sun
This unusual photo resulted in sundogs that are very pronounced as it was taken within a light ice fog at high altitude.
This unusual photo resulted in sundogs that are very pronounced as it was taken within a light ice fog at high altitude. | Source

The cross and the sun

If you are lucky, you have seen one; either a simple one or a complex one. Some claim to have seen the counterpart at night around the moon. These atmospheric and celestial phenomena depend on just the right circumstances to manifest. They also serve as the direct inspiration behind the popular and universal religious symbol of the cross and circle. The inspiration behind this ancient symbol is the sundog.

Sundogs typically form when a number of conditions are filled. The sun is typically close to the horizon at sunset or sunrise and there is a thin layer of small hexagonal ice crystals in the stratosphere within cirrus or cirrostratus clouds. Various other phenomena are associated with sundogs, but the typical sundogs form on a halo that forms as a result of light refracting through the ice crystals high in the stratosphere. The halo itself forms at about 22 degrees from the sun and the sundogs will appear as a bright circular patch on the halo that is parallel to the horizon on either side of the sun simultaneously. Sometimes, there will be a sundog above the sun as well. There may also be a tangential arc on the top portion of the halo that curves upward and away from the halo, as if to form the beginning of a second halo above the one around the sun. The sun typically has to be lower than 61 degrees from the horizon for conditions to be right for the formation of sundogs through high flown ice crystals.

Sundogs look like bright patches of light, sometimes rivaling the sun in brightness and sometimes they can be confused with comets, especially when an elongated parhelion (tail) is associated with them. As comet tails point away from the sun, an observation of a parhelion can reasonably be confused for a comet. Comets however, can be on any inclination. Parhelions are always parallel to the horizon along with the line of the sundogs and sun. They may or may not come in pairs. This depends on atmosphereic conditions which may not be uniform. Sometimes, one may notice slight color separation with the reddish part of a halo and sundog closest to the sun and the bluish part further away. Colour separation occurs only with refracted sundogs. Sometimes, sundogs and halo will be all white and this is due to the light reflecting off the snow crystals instead of refracting through them. In the case of a complex display where there are arcs above, tails on either side as well as the sundogs themselves, a mixture of various crystals with different alignments produces these phenomena at the same time. There are two basic configurations that will scatter sunlight, or moonlight into halos and sundogs with tails and crosses.

When sunlight passes through the sides of the flat hexagonal crystal, both the angle of the sun’s rays and the orientation of the crystals affects the shape and color of the sundogs. Misaligned or wobbling crystals produce colorful and elongated sundogs, while light passing through the crystal in non-optimal deviation angles up to 50° produces the "tail" of the sundog stretching away from the sun.

A line often extends through the sun to the sundogs and extends past in a long parhelion. Sometimes the sundog above the sun will also be connected with a line. This gives the appearance of a halo intersected by three crosses and the sun centered on a cross and is likely the inspiration behind the halo one often sees behind the heads of painted divinities like Jesus and the saints. As Jesus is partly derived from a solar deity, this begins to make some sense. Look carefully at a typical complex sundog complete with the rays forming crosses and you will see the three crosses that are described in the crucifixion scene. Jesus the sun deity is on the middle cross of light and the two thieves are on either side, also on crosses of light. Extending the idea of this one can see the inspiration for “the light of the world” on a cross. This vision enhances the idea of a solar deity. There is no doubt that other solar deities of the pre Christian era were also configured with a halo such as depicted in paintings of Jesus.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • syzygyastro profile imageAUTHOR

      William J. Prest 

      4 years ago from Vancouver, Canada

      The story was unpublished due to content that existed else where. It may be revised and republished as this story is still unfolding.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      4 years ago from Texas

      This is very interesting, and I voted it up and shared it with my followers. I came to your page to find a story you wrote in August about Edward Snowden, I can't seem to find it. Was it published?

    • syzygyastro profile imageAUTHOR

      William J. Prest 

      7 years ago from Vancouver, Canada

      Lately, people have been confusing theses as "two suns" in the sky and rant about how this is a sign of the end times. Sundogs have been around forever and have actually been the inspiration behind religions and religious art. Ignorance of natural phenomenon can have strange effects and inspire needless fear.

    • profile image


      7 years ago


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      we get them aswell here a lot of the time ! they are sooooooo amazing !!!

    • Yard of nature profile image

      Yard of nature 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      Gotta love sundogs. We get quite a few of them here on the shores of Lake Michigan.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)