On our last nights earlier this week at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre we had a bright gibbous Moon in our sky (as did everyone in the world!). We also had high-altitude clouds filled with ice crystals, the source of the “ring around the Moon” effect. This is a lunar halo, created by moonlight shining through six-sided ice crystals. This halo exhibits rainbow-like colours as well.
But this night, conditions were also ideal for seeing the contrails from jets flying overhead on polar routes from Europe to North America. In the main image above, you can see the jet departing to the west at lower right. Its high-altitude contrail is casting a dark shadow onto the lower cloud deck.
This view, taken earlier in the evening shows a more pronounced lunar halo with a horizon-to-horizon contrail shooting straight across the Moon and also casting a shadow.
I used an 8mm fish-eye lens to capture this 360° image of the entire sky. I was able to shoot this image in shirt-sleeve comfort through the rooftop plexiglas viewing dome at the Centre.
In this image, taken outside at -25° C, the sky is clearer but still contains enough ice crystal cloud to create a bright lunar halo. When I took this image on February 9 the Moon was to the right of bright star-like Jupiter, and in the middle of the winter stars and constellations, such as Orion just below the Moon.
Lunar haloes can be seen at any season. On any night with a nearly Full Moon embedded in high haze, look up!
– Alan, February 13, 2014 / © 2014 Alan Dyer