It is during these first and last moments above the limb of our slowly rotating planet that its light must travel through the most atmosphere before reaching our skin. The stream of photons is bent and distorted through layers of air--hot and cold, and dense and thin--with the result being some very oddly shaped mirages of our benevolent star. In fact, depending on local conditions, the atmosphere can bend the sun's light so much that it appears to rise as much as several minutes before true sunrise. Called the Novaya Zemlya effect, it is named after the far northern Russian archipelago on which this extreme refraction was first observed.
So when I took this photo, it's possible--even likely--that the real sun had not actually made it above the horizon yet...kinda spooky, eh?
Ok, by now it's certain we're seeing at least a portion of the physical sun--just a fun-house-ified version of itself...it's a hat!