A lunar halo for the New Year

Lunar halo over my parents’ house in Gatineau, Quebec. 2020-12-29 (Credits: Charles Brunette).

There was a full moon on the night of December 29. Before going to bed, I have the habit of stepping outside for a moment, to see what’s the weather like; especially in the winter, I love the feeling of the crisp cold air before I rush to the warmth of my blanket. On that night, veil-like cirrostratus clouds ran across the sky, almost invisible, providing optimal conditions for a spectacular lunar halo.

I must say, it has a very impressive alien-like appearance.

Halos are photometeors: atmospheric optical phenomenons. They occur when incident light from the sun or the moon is refracted by ice crystals in the atmosphere. Also known as 22-degree halos – the hexagonal structure of ice crystals causes a minimum deviation angle of 22 degrees, setting the distance between the moon/sun and the halo feature. Many of us who have been on Arctic expeditions have had the chance to catch a sight of halos; polar weather oftentimes offering ideal viewing conditions for this type of phenomenon.

Weather lore tells us that lunar halos are a sign of approaching storms and precipitation. I have to give it to the folklore: the next morning, we received a heavy snowfall. I am not superstitious, but after the unusual year we’ve just had, I’m ready to take anything as a good omen. Allow me to hope that the sight of this lunar halo further is a sign of good things to come in 2021.

Wishing everyone lots of happiness and success in the New Year!

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