By the Light of the Moon

   Written by on December 7, 2017 at 1:11 pm

logo - walk in gardenElsewhere in the paper this week, our Community News columnist discussed predicting the weather according to the interior shape of persimmon seeds. Not settling for only one method, Mother Nature has been very positive with another sign of a coming meteorological event.

Monday, December 3rd was the night of the Super Moon, an occasion when the moon is at its fullest and the final full moon of the year. Sometimes called a Cold Moon or Moon Before the Yule or Long Night Moon, it is the time when the moon is closest to the earth.

Having missed the show on the third, I stepped outside at 3:30 a.m. the night of the fourth of December (or morning of the fifth), when I let Big Dog out, to take a look at the sky. Not only was the moon still super, there was a huge ring around it, softly glowing in the dark sky. What a show! Eerily beautiful, the ghostly white ring had a definite edge on the outside while the interior was soft and hazy. Now, what is that all about?

Actually, it’s nothing to be spooked by at all. Looking it up, I found that the ring is caused by the light from the moon refracting (or bending) through ice crystals in the atmosphere. Seeing the ring means that cirrus clouds are present, which might indicate a coming storm. Sure enough, the weather man on the radio predicted rain for later in the day of the fifth. We’ll see how it turns out, but I’m keeping my umbrella at hand. Can Mother Nature and the weather man be wrong at the same time? Or did the weather man just take a look at the sky last night, too?

To be more technical, scientists call the ring around the moon a 22-degree halo or circumscribed light because the moon’s light is “bent” through the ice crystals 22 degrees. Those cirrus clouds that are surely present might be as high as 20,000 feet or more, and as such, are not as evident as the halo.

When you think about it, I bet the halo around the moon is a very personal thing. The view I had of it was different from the view of someone standing just a few feet away (if there had been somebody) because of, again, the angle of the light refraction. Pretty amazing.

While not a long-term prediction, the halo tells us that there will be a weather event soon.  Time will tell.

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