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Atmospheric magic: three suns in Atyrau 02 февраля 2014, 16:16

Residents of Atyrau observed an extraordinary natural phenomenon this week – three suns in the sky.
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Photo courtesy of azh.kz Photo courtesy of azh.kz
Residents of Atyrau in Western Kazakhstan have observed an extraordinary natural phenomenon this week – three suns in the sky, Tengrinews reports citing Ak Zhaiyk website. At around 10 a.m., a woman stepped out of her office and heard alarmed voices in the street. “Everyone was pointing at the sky where an iridescent sphere was clearly visible around the sun and it looked like there were two more little suns besides the main one,” Ardak said. She made some photos and sent them to the local news website. The journalists contacted the Aktobe Regional Planetarium and asked the scientists about the phenomenon. They were told that what they saw was a mock sun (parhelion) and a luminous halo around the sun; both of the phenomena can be seen in a clear freezing weather. “Parhelion can appear in the form of one, two, three, four or even five suns. Parhelion is a result of refraction of light from plate-shaped hexagonal ice crystals in the higher strata of the atmosphere that act as millions of tiny lenses. These ice crystals drift in the air and gradually lower to the ground. Each ice crystal can act as a little prism that refracts the light and forms a rainbow. If crystals are chaotic, then a sun halo can be observed, which on its own is an interesting phenomenon. If there is a certain alignment in the crystals, then the so-called mock sun appears. Atyrau observers were lucky to witness both a halo and parhelions,” the astronomers explained. Interestingly, the atmospheric phenomenon was mentioned in the world literature several times. For instance, Shakespeare's Henry VI and Jack London’s The Sun Dog Trail mention a parhelion.

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