Last night Joe and I were out walking the dog. We live in the horse capital of the world, so there is a lot of dark farm land around us, giving us spectacular views of the heavens. I can’t say that I always look up to see what is going on out there, but during our walk I remembered that on March 19, 2011 we are supposed to have a ‘supermoon’. An event where the moon is the closest to the earth, and as a bonus for us earthlings it will be a full moon.
I wondered if the moon would appear any different to me and looked up. The sight that I beheld literally took my breath away! The moon shown brightly and was surrounded by an enormous halo. The moon hung in the center of this ring and a few stars danced and twinkled like diamonds.
Before I looked up a jet must have flown by, leaving a chem-trail in its wake. This chem-trail sliced across the entire circle. The most amazing thing was the chem-trail had a shadow which was above the actual gas cloud. I believe this was because the moon was so bright it was reflecting back up from the ground. As we watched the chem-trail moved across the moon and within minutes it cleared the circle.
But the circle remained unchanged, so what was causing this phenomena? Echoing my thoughts Joe said to call my brother. I dialed his number while Joe snapped away pictures. When my brother answered I asked him to go outside and look at the moon.
I did not have any hopes that he would see the ring as he was a two hour drive due east of my position. As I waited for him to confirm I heard him calling out the family to see the moon! Amazing, I thought.
We snapped off a dozen pictures using our iPhones. Unfortunately none of the pictures came out. I did find out what a moon-ring is.
The ring around the Moon is caused by the refraction of Moonlight (which of course is reflected sunlight) from ice crystals in the upper atmosphere. The shape of the ice crystals results in a focusing of the light into a ring. Since the ice crystals typically have the same shape, namely a hexagonal shape, the Moon ring is almost always the same size.
Less typical are the halos that may be produced by different angles in the crystals. They can create halos with an angle of 46 degrees.
Folklore has it that a ring around the moon signifies bad weather is coming, and in many cases this may be true. So how can rings around the moon be a predictor of weather to come? The ice crystals that cover the halo signify high altitude, thin cirrus clouds that normally precede a warm front by one or two days. Typically, a warm front will be associated with a low pressure system which is commonly referred to as a storm.
It is believed that the number of stars within a moon halo indicate the number days before bad weather will arrive. Give it a try the next time you observe a moon halo. (Wish I knew this before, we didn’t think about counting the number of stars)
The ring that appears around the moon arises from light passing through six-sided ice crystals high in the atmosphere. These ice crystals refract, or bend, light in the same manner that a camera lens bends light. The ring has a diameter of 22° , and sometimes, if you are lucky, it is also possible to detect a second ring, 44° diameter. Thin high cirrus clouds lofting at 20,000 feet or more contain tiny ice crystals that originate from the freezing of super cooled water droplets. These crystals behave like jewels refracting and reflecting in different directions. The above definition was obtained from home.hiwaay.net.
As for the Super-Moon on March 19th, I do not believe that it will create earth devastations in an apocalyptic way, but do think the Earth feels the gravitational tug of the moon and may cause some earthquakes and volcanic activity, which lately has been quite high.
However, if you can, it should be worth seeing and photographing. The moon will be around 360,000 km (223,693 mi) from the earth. This event has only happened 15 times in the last 400 years.