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Photo: UK Met Office Facebook

British and Irish skywatchers have noted an interesting phenomenon today: a red-orange sun.

The sight is the product of the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia dragging warm air – including sand and particles from as far south as the Sahara Desert – to filter the sun’s rays, providing the unusual view.

“In addition to strong winds ex-Hurricane Ophelia left much of western UK in a spooky orange glow for a time,” the Met Office, the United Kingdom’s weather service, said today. “This weird phenomena is caused by Saharan dust scattering the blue light from the sun, letting more red light through. Much as a red sky at night.”

The debris from forest fires in Iberia, Portugal and Spain, may have added to the optical phenomenon, according to reports.

The hurricane, which originated around the Azores, has gradually weakened as it approached the United Kingdom over the weekend. But at its peak, it was a Category 3 storm with winds as high as 110 mph, according to meteorologists.

Ophelia is also a literal outlier in that it originated much farther east and north than most storm in the Atlantic. The last storm to have had comparable latitude was Michael, which started in 2012 about 900 miles to the west. Ophelia is also the sixth major Atlantic hurricane produced this year – a run of storms last achieved in 2004.

Ophelia weakened before arriving in the British Isles this morning, and has been downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone. Hurricanes are extremely rare for the UK and Ireland. The last such storm was the remnants of Hurricane Katia in September 2011, which skirted the northern coast of Scotland. The single hurricane to strike Europe while still a tropical storm was Hurricane Debbie in September 1961, which caused major destruction during a pass over Ireland.

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