On September 15, 1851, peasants saw five suns burning in the skies over Switzerland.
Frightened, they wondered if the world was about the end. Twenty years later in Missouri
(USA), witnesses saw what appeared to be nine suns smiling benevolently down at earth.
These sightings were mock suns, or sundogs, created by the refraction of light by ice
crystals in the atmosphere. Usually, they appear as a pair of bright spots on either
side of the sun. However, the sundogs often appear at the same time as rings around the
sun known as halos and other related visual effects.
Some investigators say that the mock suns and halos may have inspired historical and
biblical accounts of certain miracles. Freeman Hall, a meteorologist, has researched a
record by biblical prophet Ezekiel of two concentric wheels “so high that they were
dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four.” The record also tells
of a throne above the shining vision, glittering like a blue gem. According to Hall, the
eyes may have been mock suns arranged on concentric halos, and the throne the colorful
circumzenithal arc, which sometimes appears like an upside-down rainbow in the sky above
a halo. Hall also notes that at the time of Ezekiel’s account, the thrones of the era had
concave, arc-shaped seats.
Another chronicle of a similar event is by the Roman emperor Constantine. The night
before a battle in AD 312, he saw an ornate cross of light in the sky. He was amazed and
believed the vision meant divine support, promptly converting from paganism to
Christianity. He won the following battle.
Scientists think he may have seen a combination of halos, arcs, pillars, and mock suns.
Whatever it was, the aerial phenomenon transformed Christianity from a disliked
denomination into the religion of the Holy Roman Empire.