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Apocalyptic comet above Tuttington? No, it’s a dog

You could be forgiven for thinking this strange spectral light with a fiery tail seen above Tuttington this week foretells our doom from a cataclysmic impact between earth and a comet.

But worry not, the optical phenomenon is called a Sun Dog and this example just happened to shine through a cloud in a spectacular way giving the appearance of a comet.

Sun dogs are produced as the sun approaches the horizon and light becomes refracted through hexagonal ice crystals high in the atmosphere. Sometimes a second dog can be seen on the left hand side of the sun and with arcs of light and a vertical line of light called a sun pillar.

Sun dogs are a type of halo observed at 22 degrees from the sun. Rarer haloes appear at 9 degrees whilst rainbows – caused by sunlight refracting through raindrops – are at 42 degrees with secondary rainbows at 52 degrees relative to the sun.

Exactly why they are called dogs is not clear. In Scandinavian countries, they are sometimes called wolves relating to Norse mythology. In the UK it has been suggested the word originates here in Norfolk from a dialect word Dag meaning dew.

Look out for sun dogs next time you take the dog for a walk down Beck Lane, they are more common in Winter.

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