Thursday, January 7, 2010

Beauty and the Beast

Greetings from Dan! Brad has generously allowed me access to his blog, and I've been itching to write a post. Frigid, windy days like this are great for bringing out the author in me.

Growing up in Michigan, I loved winter -- snow forts, snowball fights, ice skating under starlit nights. Winters in Nebraska haven't exactly compared to those I experienced as a child. Not until this one, anyway. Even a winter-lover can be tested with thirty-below wind chills! And I worry about wildlife trying to survive under such conditions. Avoiding the horned larks gathering on icy roads has been a particular challenge.

Even amongst beastly conditions such as these, we can find beauty. Driving to work this morning, I caught sight of this:

Many of you know these as sundogs; other names include parhelia and mock suns. These are caused by hexagonal-shaped ice crystals bending sunlight at a 22-degree angle. They can be seen at any time of year, but some of the most striking sundog displays I've seen have occurred in frigid conditions with blowing snow -- both of which we had in spades when this picture was taken.

Sundogs are the most common of a whole range of beautiful atmospheric phenomena involving sunlight and ice. To learn more, check out

Stay warm, and keep those birdfeeders full!

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