Photographer Captures Rare Yellowstone Double Sun Dog At ‘Just The Right Moment’

A photographer in Yellowstone caught a rare phenomenon a double sun dog of epic proportions, created by the suns light refracting through ice crystals suspended in the air in bitter cold temperatures.

Wendy Corr

February 16, 20233 min read

Double Sundog 2 16 23

On a trek through north Yellowstone in late January, wildlife and nature photographer Darren McTee captured a rare phenomenon – a multi-faceted “sun dog,” much like a rainbow, but displayed across the skies in smaller arcs surrounding the sun.

“This morning it was -29 degrees,” wrote McTee in a post on the Yellowstone Insiders Hub Facebook page. “But the cold temps provided something completely unexpected. A Sun Dog of epic proportions!”

Cowboy State Daily Meteorologist Don Day explained that the phenomenon captured in McTee’s photograph was only possible because of the extreme cold and snow, which caused very tiny ice crystals to be suspended in the air.

“It’s the same phenomenon that you’re going to get with a rainbow,” Day said. “But instead of the sunlight going through rain to cause the rainbow, the sun is refracting those different colors of the rainbow through these very small ice crystals.” 

Atmospheric Phenomenon

Wyoming’s wide open skies have been the canvas on which many unusual atmospheric phenomena have been displayed.

For example, these Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds captured by photographers in early December were a rare sight, caused by two layers of air moving at differing speeds.

Lunar eclipses and northern lights have also been viewed in recent months in Wyoming skies. 

But a sight like the double sun dog captured Jan. 29 by McTee is exceptionally rare, Day said, comparing the circumstances to looking up and seeing a shooting star crossing the sky at exactly the right moment.

“It’s kind of like the photographer was there at the exact right time and exactly the right place to really see it,” he said. “Because after the sun comes up a little bit higher and the sun angle changes and all those things, it’s not going to last for very long.”

‘Took My Breath Away’

Day said the rare sight was only made possible because of the ultra-cold temperatures and calm winds, and the sun coming through at just the right angle to produce the double sun dog.

In his Facebook post, McTee expressed his amazement at the view.

“Many things in nature amaze me,” he said. “This event literally took my breath away.”

Share this article



Wendy Corr

Features Reporter