A triple sunrise has been spotted in Russia which experts say is the result of the rare presence of tiny ice crystals in the air leading to an optical illusion.
The Daily Mail report:
The incredible halo effect – known as a ‘sundog’ or ‘phantom sun’ – was actually caused by small pockets of ice suspended in the air, which were themselves created when temperatures plunged below -25C.
The crystals are so small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye, but they have the effect of refracting the sunlight and making it look like three brightly burning suns.
Incredible images of the optical illusion were shared on social media and reported by local news website Tass.
‘In the air, there were small hexagonal ice crystals, which can not be seen with the naked eye,’ Tass forecaster Galina Sheporenko said.
‘The sun’s rays were refracted through them. The result is an optical halo effect’, she added.
The crystals were the product of a particularly chilly morning in Chelyabinsk, with temperatures plummeting to around -25C.
The triple sunrise came just days after another unusual event took place in the city – blue-coloured snow lining the streets.
The explanation for that incident proved to be far less scientific when a local sweet factory admitted experiencing a spill, leading to powdered food dye to escape in to the air.
Sundogs are created when sunlight is refracted by large, hexagonal ice crystals, such as those in snowflakes.
They typically appear as two coloured patches of light either side of the sun and though rare, can in theory be seen anywhere in the world in any season. They are created by the refraction of light passing through flat, hexagonal ice crystals in high, cold clouds.
The crystals act like prisms so that as light passes through them, it is bent by exactly 22 degrees before reaching viewers’ eyes to make the illusion. If the crystals are more randomly located in clouds, a complete ring around the sun is visible, called a halo.
But if the crystals sink through the air, they become arranged in vertical lines, so that the sunlight is refracted horizontally, to make sundogs, as seen in these images.
If the phenomenon is seen as the sun is rising, the sundogs gradually move further away from the sun, but always stay at the same elevation, so the three ‘orbs’ appear to be the same distance from the horizon.
They are reddest in colour when they are near to the sun and fade to yellow, orange and then blue as they move away. The colours of sun dogs merge into a white halo in some instances.