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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Halos Around the Moon

For much of last week Israel from center to south was covered by high cirrus clouds containing ice crystals, also called diamond dust. These ice crystals refract light from the moon, especially a bright full or near-full moon, at a 22 degree angle from the source. The result is a halo around the moon that is sometimes white, sometimes rainbow colored if the moon light and ice crystals are just right. This can be a beautiful sight, but it also ruins the sky for star tours, since the scattered light of the moon blocks out all but the brightest stars.

Last week, the near-full moon was quite close to Jupiter, which was the only heavenly body still visible through the moon halo. For a brief time I could see a slight rainbow with the red on the inner part of the halo, but for the most part it was just a faint white ring. This week, skies are clear, at least for now, in Mitzpe Ramon.

This 22 degree moon halo was seen last Thursday, 11/10/11, from Mitzpe Ramon. The bright object to the right of the moon is Jupiter.

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