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article image'Two Suns' appear in China, occurrence could be optical illusion

By Andrew Moran     Mar 7, 2011 in Science
Beijing - A video apparently showing two suns in the skies of China has made its rounds across the Internet. Although the rare phenomenon has amazed scientists, an explanation has come forth suggesting that it could have been an optical illusion.
Digital Journal reported last month that certain scientists predicted the explosion of Betelgeuse, the second largest star in the constellation of Orion and is approximately 640 light-years away. It was believed this burst would create a second sun for at least a week.
Although the scientific community later refuted the story that made headlines across the globe, a rare showing of two suns has set ablaze the Internet community.
Last week, local Chinese news outlets were able to get video of apparently two suns in the sky. One sun was orange and fuzzy, while the other one was a clear yellow orb and was slightly above its counterpart.
So what’s going on in space? Space.com reports that the scientific community has not come to a conclusion about what happened, but some are speculating and coming up with their own theory.
Jim Kaler, an astronomer at the University of Illionois, believes it was an optical refraction. These mirages, or illusions, can occur when the air is thick and particles in the atmosphere can bend light.
“I doubt it's been computer modeled,” said Kaler. “There must have been some blob of atmosphere somewhere that caused this truly spectacular phenomenon, which in a sense is a mirage.”
But the International Business Times reports that University of Wisconsin Cooperative Institute for Satellite and Meteorological Studies, Grant Perry, says that circumstance is highly rare and the conditions would have to be quite abnormal because the air particles would have to refract the sunlight.
The unusual incident of double suns has been explained before in Flemish astronomer Marcel Minnaert’s book “Light and Color in the Outdoors.” In the book, there are many published accounts of double images of the sun and the moon.
“So many other instances have been reported that there is no longer any doubt about … observations of sun and mock sun(s) being at exactly the same altitude,” wrote Minnaert. The case of a mock sun 3 degrees and 25 arc-seconds to the left of the nearly set sun sounds incredible but has been recorded photographically.”
In the end, though, scientists agree that the image was not reproduced in anyway.
More about two suns, China, Suns, Space, Betelgeuse
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