23 January 2009

Parhelia come to town

Do you know what parhalia are? They are sun dogs. I've been hunting them for a few weeks now and was never able to catch them. Until today. The temperatures dropped to the single digits, there was moisture in the air and I just knew it was going to be a good day for sun dogs. This wikipedia article does a great job of describing how sun dogs are formed. Basically, they form when it's really cold and there are tiny ice crystals in the air. They are kind of like a cousin to a rainbow.

Anyway, we get them here in Bismarck and across the northern plains quite frequently in the winter. The reason they are tough to get photos of - it's DARN COLD when they are out. And they come and go quite quickly.

I've gotten in the habit of bringing my camera to work "just in case" the sun dogs come out, I'll be ready.

Bismarck Sun Dog 6
At about 9 am this morning, I took a little peek outside and was very excited to see little "snow puppies" (tiny sun dogs) looking like dimples around the sun. The sun is hidden behind the bell banner. To get this photo (above), I had to go out of the building. I wasn't really prepared to go outside – I just had my work clothes on and a light weight scarf (no hat, gloves or coat). But I thought I'd just be out for a few second, snap a quick photo and I'd run right back in. Wrong. I was locked out in -25°F windchill. I forgot that we usually keep the doors by the chapel locked because they are rarely used. Bummer. I had to quickly and carefully walk (I had heels on) to the other door. To get to the other door, I had to make a giant U, following the walking path (the covered area in the photo). I was a popsicle when I finally got inside again. But it was worth it.

Bismarck Sun Dog 5
At about 4 pm today I got a call from Sister Janet (my favorite sun dog spotter - her office faces the sun!) she said the sun dogs were even better than this morning. Wow was she right! The photo above was taken just on the other side of the covered walkway in the previous photo). Notice that the sun doesn't travel very far during the day - gotta love that North Dakota winter. I am fascinated by this photo. It's neat to see how the sun dogs form a circle shape around the sun. Amazing.

Bismarck Sun Dog 4
Since I get off work at 4:30 pm, I hung around campus (in the warmth of my car) and snapped a few more photos. Although I think the 4 pm photo really 'takes the cake,' these are pretty amazing too.

Bismarck Sun Dog 3
This tree is right by the monastery. I like how the sun (and sun dogs) look behind it.

Bismarck Sun Dog 2
The sun is going down ...
Bismarck Sun Dog 1
It's amazing what -2°F and frozen vapors will do to a sunset.

Don't forget that you can click on any photo to see it bigger in Flickr. Once in Flickr, look at the buttons right above the photo and click on "All Sizes."


Anonymous said...

Cool pictures, dear! It's good to be able to read your blog and see what you've been up to lately :)



Bison Girl said...

Glad you are enjoying them - don't work too hard :)
love you too!

ReNay said...

Amazing sun dogs! I love the photos - especially the bell tower and the tree. Reminds me of a still, cold winter day - beautiful.

Shannon said...

Blog hopping through some of the Project Improv list....

I loved learning about sun dogs!!

I really like your header, too.

connie said...

I hope you have warmed up. I grew up in central Wyoming and would travel to northern Minnesota in the winter and summer. I remember seeing this kind of thing and had no idea what it was. Fascinating. Your photos are incredible too. Thanks. I love your project improv blocks too..........

Bison Girl said...


Melissa K said...

I saw these the other day and I had no idea what they were, I thought it was the apocalypse! Very cool!

rainylakechick said...

That is so cool!