A warm greeting for the frigid Moon

A warm greeting for the frigid Moon

A warm greeting for the frigid Moon

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
March 9 2012 10:47 AM

A warm greeting for the frigid Moon

Dave Brosha is a photographer who loves to capture spectacular and unusual night sky scenes -- his picture of another photographer silhouetted against an aurora graced this blog in November 2011.

He just sent me two more he took last night. He went to Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories of Canada. The aurorae were active last night as the Sun's recent hissy fit sparked a geomagnetic storm, but by the time Dave go his equipment set up, the Moon was up and the aurorae fading. But never one to waste an opportunity, he took this incredibly dramatic and moving picture:

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Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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Stunning. [Click to enannulenate.] Ice crystals suspended in the air refract (bend) light from the Moon, and due to their geometry they create a ring around it. This is common in winter, but it's rare -- at least in the lower 48 -- to get one this bright. The bright "star" on the edge of the ring at the top is actually Mars, which is terribly bright and ruddy in the night skies right now. The fainter star inside the halo is Denebola, the tail of Leo. He also took this more upbeat picture (click to embiggen) which is another fantastic shot of the halo. You can still see Mars, with the bright Regulus (the heart of Leo) to the right, and just to the left of his hand is either Saturn or the bright blue star Spica in Virgo; I'm not sure which since they're close to each other in the sky right now. Given how far it's outside the halo, I'm leaning toward it being Saturn with his hand blocking the view of Spica. As an added bonus, you can see a faint arc of light at the top of the halo, called an upper tangent arc; these are more rare. I've only seen them a handful of times near the Sun, and never from a Moon halo!

Having spent a lot of time -- a lot -- out in the cold waiting for that one great shot, that one great view through the telescope, I can sympathize with what Dave went through to get these... and know he agrees that it was absolutely worth it.

Image credits: Dave Brosha, used with permission.

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