What is a Parhelion?

Parhelion, photographed on Bernards Heath, 29 December 2016.
This was the site of the Second Battle of St Albans 1461.

A parhelion or sun dog is an optical phenomenon that consists of a bright spot to one or both sides of the Sun caused by the refraction of sunlight by ice crystals in the atmosphere.  There is often a halo as well.  In this case there is just one sun dog and no halo.

Peter Burley, local historian, writes: Its historical interest is that a parhelion appeared on another Wars of the Roses battlefield in January 1461 at Mortimer’s Cross in Herefordshire. The Earl of March – the Yorkist commander and future Edward IV – seized the initiative and told his troops that it was a sign from heaven that they would win the battle. They did and the Yorkists adopted a symbol of three suns in splendour for their banners – and this won them a second battle at Barnet (1471) when the Lancastrian Earl of Oxford’s banner of stars was mistaken for the Yorkist suns and the Lancastrian army started fighting itself.

Posted in History, Photos