Three suns over China
Residents of a Chinese city have been amazed to see what appeared to be three suns hanging in the sky at the same time.

The optical illusion lasted three hours this morning in Mohe, the country's northernmost city near the Russian border.

The spectacle is caused by a natural phenomenon known as 'sun dogs' and rarely happens in China, according to experts.

The stunning scene occurred from 6.30am to 9.30am in the Mohe town of Tuqiang. Mohe is part of the Daxing'anling region of north-eastern Heilongjiang Province.

It was one of the longest-lasting sun dog occurrences in the area in recent years, the Daxing'anling Fire Brigade said in a social media post while sharing a video of the sight.

Pictures and footage uploaded by the Chinese weather authorities show two bright spots, called 'phantom suns', appearing on the left and right side of the actual sun which was rising from the sleepy town of 20,000.

Sun dogs happen when sunlight passes through high-altitude ice crystals in cirrus clouds. The phenomenon is also called 'parhelion'.

Grahame Madge, a spokesman for the Met Office, said that sun dogs can occur anywhere in the world, and they are always 'intriguing to see'.

Mr Madge told MailOnline: 'Occasionally they can form multi-coloured patches - like sections of rainbows - or they can appear in this case like multiple suns.

'The atmosphere above our heads is ever-changing and often there can be interesting things to see for those with the dedication to look.'

An unusually bright moon can create the same effect, but such an instance is 'very rare', according to the Met Office.

Chinese meteorological engineer Bian Yun previously told MailOnline that sun dogs rarely happen in his country.

Mr Bian, who works for China Meteorological Administration, commented on the illusion in an interview in 2019: 'There are many hexagon-shaped ice crystals in the semi-transparent, delicate clouds in the sky.

'Occasionally, they will line up finely and horizontally in the sky and when sunlight shines on these ice crystals, such irregular reflection will occur.'

Residents of a town in Xinjiang in north-western China were treated to a similar sight on an afternoon in December last year. A pair of mock suns brought a stunning halo to the small city of Khorgas on an otherwise biting cold day.