Something Special In The Sky: Ever Spotted A ‘Sundog’?

DEARBORN (CBS Detroit) – “It’s so exciting and it’s kinda scary when you see it …  it’s overwhelming,” said Maria Buffa, who spotted a sundog one January morning, near Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn.

Also referred to as “mock suns” or “phantom suns,” patches of light that sometimes appear beside the sun are called “sundogs.” The scientific name is parhelion from the Greek parēlion, meaning “beside the sun.”

(credit: Maria Buffa)

(credit: Maria Buffa)

According to, speculation is that they are called that because they follow the sun like a dog follows its master.

“It made my daughter late for work. I told her we’ll have to tell your boss you were off chasing rainbows,” said Buffa, whose daughter — also named Maria — snapped some iPhone photos.  “We’ll be looking at the skies more often after this!”

Scientists say it’s atmospheric phenomenon caused by the refraction of sunlight through ice crystals such as those hosted in cirrus clouds. Sundogs can be seen anywhere in the world during any season, but they are not always so obvious or bright as this.

What a sight!


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