There are two rising suns – both bright, both side-by-side, one just slightly smaller than the other. The photo captured by Angel Townend of Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, on Tuesday, June 21, 2023 has not be doctored and shows what she saw at sunrise.
“Please see pictures. The two ‘suns’ being next to each other … the one on the right appeared smaller, then emerged with the sun and pull[ed] away before disappearing into clouds at sun rise. What do you think?” asked Angel to WeatherWatch.co.nz.
Our response? It’s an awesome and very rare optical illusion.
“Mirages appear when particles in the atmosphere refract, or bend light – and this often occurs as the sun is rising or setting through a ‘thicker’ atmosphere”, says WeatherWatch.co.nz head forecaster Philip Duncan. “In 16+ years of running WeatherWatch.co.nz we have never had a photo of a double-sun like this one, it’s very cool!”.
Angel says the photos below don’t “capture the symmetry or separation of the 2 [suns] that we had with the naked eye”.
Her photos were taken Tuesday, June 20, from rural Katikati in Western Bay of Plenty – looking out over the Pacific Ocean. Time from first photo to last is 7.32am and 7.35am.
How rare is this sight? Very.
In a story by NBC News in 2011 a double-sun was seen over China and described by a US astronomer as “pretty darn rare” and “one not fully explained by science”. Read the story by NBC here.
“Optical illusions are most common in the mornings and evening as the sun shines through a thicker layer of earth’s atmosphere” says Philip Duncan. “The dust, gases and particles can twist light in ways that don’t always make immediate sense – but many of us have seen the sun ‘kissing’ the sea at sunrise/sunset (where it does a bit of a figure-8 shape) – this is basically another version of that”.
Star Wars geeks will know the Tatooine reference, being the planet in Star Wars that famously had two suns and was a sparsely inhabited due to the binary star system resulting in the world lacking the necessary surface water to sustain a large population.
Thanks Angel for sending in the photo(s) to WeatherWatch.co.nz!