The continuing cold snap in the Bitterroot Valley brought an unusual atmospheric vision late Thursday afternoon, January 5... bright spots in the sky called sun dogs.

The "sun dog" is created by suspended ice crystals in the air. Around the Sun, the ice refracts the light, much like a prism, and creates a colorful solar image on either side of the Sun. Often there is a simultaneous halo around the Sun.

The sun dogs are always on the left and right sides of the sun and the halo is most visible above the sun, as seen in the photo. You can see that the prism-like colors in the sun dog move from red nearest the sun to blue farthest away.

The photo only has the right sun dog above Downing Mountain. There was one to the left of the Sun, too, but our angle was wrong to catch them both.

The phenomenon has been observed many times through history, all the way back past Aristotle's time.