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Meteorology (Weather)/Strange sunset appears like 3 suns

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Triple sun sunset
Triple sun sunset  
Today in Chicago as the sun was setting I've seen something I've never seen before. Around the sun was a perfect circle, only incomplete on bottom by horizon, that looked like a rainbow. Outside that ringed rainbow were what looked like 2 smaller suns, one on each side of the sun outside the ringed rainbow. Perfectly symmetrical too. My only guess is that the sun light was bending in the atmosphere as the light went thru more atmosphere at a lower angle. But it wasn't quite sunset yet and in the picture you can clearly see this. It was also a record low today in Chicago. Minus 5 was the high and windchill negative 40, maybe the extreme cold was refracting frozen moisture?  It could not have been clouds because it was too symmetrical.
Let me know cause I love this stuff.
Matt

Answer
Hi Matthew

Terrific picture of "sun dogs"; your shot is of a 44 degree parhelia. The following link explains the creation process:

http://www.atoptics.co.uk/halo/44pars.htm

http://www.atoptics.co.uk/halo/120pars.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_dog

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/88/Fargo_Sundogs_2_18_09.jpg  

Meteorology (Weather)

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Donald Rosenfeld

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Any questions (except private) answered from the 1st grade level on up pertaining to any aspect of Weather. I am a 20 year member of the American Meteorological society and a long time forecaster of eastern United States snow storms and Hurricanes.

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