Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sun Dogs!

Photo of yesterday's sun dog by Todd Paris, UAF Marketing and Communications

There are three things about a Fairbanks winter that make me all aflutter: 1) the Aurora Borealis, which I fawned over in a previous post; 2) the ice and snow that cover every twig on every branch on every tree, every day, all winter, which I am certain to wax poetic about sometime soon; and 3) the sun dogs, the topic of today's post.

Yesterday felt like the first day of real winter and the thermometer hung out around -20 degrees. I gave a campus tour and, as we walked around campus, the man I was with had ice on his eyelashes. Yesterday also gave us the first great sun dog of the season.

Ned Rozell, with the help of UAF's atmospheric scientist Ken Sassen, explain the sun dog phenomenon as, "plate-like ice crystals" that reflect "sunlight from their flat sides and create columns of light that extend from the sun to the ground." Sassen adds that "the two colored bands are there because light gets refracted." To read the entire article, which contains a more detailed explanation, click here.

I think I love sun dogs so much because they are so unique to the arctic and they can't see them anywhere else. It just goes to show, we really are defined by our location.

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