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Spectacular lunar halo caught on camera

Not a camera artefact: a lunar halo pictured in Bermuda overnight Wednesday (Photograph by Phil Wells)

Stargazers were met with the striking image of a lunar halo on Wednesday night.

Photos have been emerging on social media of the moon encircled in a bright ring of light.

Phil Wells was one of those who managed to capture the image on camera and post it online. He wrote on the post: “Huge ring around the moon visible in Bermuda right now. Not a camera artefact. Weird!”

He said the photo was taken at about 9.40pm, adding: “The ring was visible for quite some time, at least half an hour and probably longer than that. When I stopped looking around 10pm it was still there.”

Garry Hunt, a former Nasa scientist and former cohost for the British Broadcasting Corporation's astronomy series The Sky at Night, wrote an article in BBC Sky at Night Magazine on the optical phenomenon which is caused by the refraction of moonlight from ice crystals in the upper atmosphere.

He wrote: “Cirrus clouds, at a height of 6,000m (20,000ft) or more in the atmosphere, contain tiny ice crystals that originate from the freezing of water droplets.

“These ice crystals refract, or bend, light just like a camera lens. It is the shape of the ice crystals that focuses the light into a halo around the Moon.

“Since the ice crystals are normally all hexagonal, the moon’s ring is almost always the same size; it has a diameter of 22 degrees.

“Sometimes it is also possible to detect a second ring, 44 degrees in diameter.”

Mr Hunt added that ice crystals that produce the halo and the accompanying cirrus clouds usually precede a warm front, typically associated with a storm.

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Published January 06, 2023 at 7:45 am (Updated January 06, 2023 at 7:33 am)

Spectacular lunar halo caught on camera

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