Pictures: A Halo Around the Moon

Clouds, Earth, Halo, Moon, Night, Space, Full Moon, Optical Phenomenon,

Moon halo photo by Kevin Zhao. Jupiter is inside the ring at 1:00, and the Pleiades are outside at about the same angle.

Those of you lucky enough to glance at the moon last night have noticed a large, striking ring around the celestial object. The sight was quite breath-taking. Such “rings” are caused by high-level cirrus clouds reflecting moonlight in the sky. They usually occur when high level moisture drifts in from distant storms (in this case, Hurricane Ingrid far to our south).
A Halo Around the Moon

Lighting the night last Tuesday, February's Full Moon is sometimes called the Snow Moon. But the Moon was not quite full in this mosaicked skyscape recorded on February 2 south of Budapest, Hungary, and there was no snow either. Still, thin clouds of ice crystals hung in the cold, wintry sky creating this gorgeous lunar halo. Refraction of moonlight by the six-sided crystals produce the slightly colored halo with its characteristic radius of 22 degrees. Just below the Moon is bright star Aldebaran. Also well within the halo at the right is the Pleiades star cluster. At the lower left, near the halo's edge lie the stars of Orion with bright Capella, alpha star of the constellation Auriga, just beyond the halo near the top of the frame.

Image Credit & Copyright: Rafael Schmall

Moon Halo over Ely, MN
Moon Halo over Ely, MN

What Creates a Ring Around the Moon?

What Creates a Ring Around the Moon
These rings, or halos around the Moon are caused by sunlight reflecting off the Moon then striking ice crystals high in the Earth's atmosphere, where it is refracted into a 22 degree halo. These ice crystals are usually in very high cirrus clouds, around 20,000 feet above our heads.

Full moon halo across the early spring night landscape
Full moon halo across the early spring night landscape.