The greatest alleged miracle of the twentieth century has to be the miracle of the sun at Fatima in 1917. Though science found the sun did not move, thousands of people at Fatima are said to have thought it magically did move thanks to the long dead mother of Jesus appearing there and making it move.  In brief, the real miracle is how few accounts written in the immediate aftermath there are.  You would expect the schools to have the child witnesses writing essays on it.  Despite all the photographers who were present there are no photos of the sun or changes in the sky or any physical evidence. It is psychologically unthinkable that with the photographers who were there none attempted a photo of anything other than the crowd.
Let us look at what top class debunker Joe Nickell has to say about it.
This Fatima “miracle” has been described in many very different ways. Some claimed that the sun spun pinwheel-like with colored streamers, while others maintained that it danced. One reported, “I saw clearly and distinctly a globe of light advancing from east to west, gliding slowly and majestically through the air.” To some, the sun seemed to be falling toward the spectators. Still others, before the “dance of the sun” occurred, saw white petals shower down and disintegrate before reaching the earth (Larue 1990, 195—196; Arvey 1990, 70—71; Rogo 1982, 227, 230—232).

Precisely what happened at Fatima has been the subject of much controversy. Church authorities made inquiries, collected eyewitness testimony, and declared the events worthy of belief as a miracle (Zimdars-Swartz 1991, 90). However, people elsewhere in the world, viewing the very same sun, did not see the alleged gyrations; neither did astronomical observatories detect the sun deviating from the norm (which would have had a devastating effect on Earth!). Therefore, more tenable explanations for the reports include mass hysteria and local meteorological phenomena such as a sundog (a parhelion or “mock sun”).

On the other hand, several eyewitnesses of the October 13, 1917, gathering at Fatima specifically stated they were looking “fixedly at the sun” or “tried to look straight at it” or otherwise made clear they were gazing directly at the actual sun (qtd. in Rogo 1982, 230, 231). If this is so, the “dancing sun” and other solar phenomena may have been due to optical effects resulting from temporary retinal distortion caused by staring at such an intense light or to the effect of darting the eyes to and fro to avoid fixed gazing (thus combining image, afterimage, and movement).

Most likely, there was a combination of factors, including optical effects and meteorological phenomena, such as the sun being seen through thin clouds, causing it to appear as a silver disc. Other possibilities include an alteration in the density of the passing clouds, causing the sun’s image to alternately brighten and dim and so seem to advance and recede, and dust or moisture droplets in the atmosphere refracting the sunlight and thus imparting a variety of colors. The effects of suggestion were also likely involved, since devout spectators had come to the site fully expecting some miraculous event, had their gaze dramatically directed at the sun by the charismatic Lucia, and excitedly discussed and compared their perceptions in a way almost certain to foster psychological contagion (Nickell 1993, 176—181).

Not surprisingly, perhaps, sun miracles have been reported at other Marian sites—at Lubbock, Texas, in 1989; Mother Cabrini Shrine near Denver, Colorado, in 1992; Conyers, Georgia, in the early to mid-1990s; and elsewhere, including Thiruvananthapuram, India, in 2008. Tragically, at the Colorado and India sites, many people suffered eye damage (solar retinopathy)—in some instances, possibly permanent damage (Nickell 1993, 196—200; Sebastian 2008).

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Barss, Patchen. 2000. The sun-dance secret. National Post (Canada), May 13.
Dacruz, Rev. V. n.d. Quoted in Rogo 1982, 224—225.
Fleishman, Jeffrey. 2000. Vatican says “third secret” speaks of renewal. The Buffalo News, June 27.
Gruner, Nicholas. 1997. Fatima Priest. Pound Ridge, NY: Good Counsel Publications.
—. 2006. Living our daily lives in light of the Fatima secret. The Fatima Crusader 82 (Spring): 5—10, 40—51.
Kramer, Paul. 2006. The third secret predicts: World War III and worse? The Fatima Crusader 82 (Spring): 11—13, 52—62.
Larue, Gerald A. 1990. The Supernatural, the Occult, and the Bible. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.
Lúcia Santos. 2008. Wikipedia. Available online at http: // (accessed September 3, 2008).
Long, Becky. 1992. The Conyers apparitions. Georgia Skeptic 5(2) (March/April): 3.
Nickell, Joe. 1989. The Magic Detectives. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.
—. 1993. Looking for a Miracle: Weeping Icons, Relics, Stigmata, Visions and Healing Cures. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books. (The present discussion is largely abridged from this work—pp. 176—181—and expanded to include revelation of the Third Secret.)
Oliveira, Mario de. 1999. Fátima Nunca Mais (Fatima Never Again). Porto, Portugal: Campo des Letras.
Rogo, Scott D. 1982. Miracles: A Parascientific Inquiry into Wondrous Phenomena. New York: Dial Press.
Sebastian, Don. 2008. 50 people looking for solar image of Mary lose sight. Available online at (accessed March 12, 2008).
Valpy, Michael. 2000. The Vatican, devotees clash over Third Secret of Fatima. The Globe and Mail (Toronto, Canada), June 27.
Visions: Messages from the Virgin Mary or delusions? 1989. Los Angeles Times, April 9.
Wilson, Sheryl C., and Theodore X. Barber. 1983. The fantasy-prone personality: Implications for understanding imagery, hypnosis, and parapsychological phenomena. In Imagery, Current Theory, Research and Application, ed. Anees A. Sheikh, 340—390. New York: Wiley.
Zimdars-Swartz, Sandra L. 1991. Encountering Mary. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

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