Moon Halos Over Portland, Oregon Skies Two Nights in a Row
(Portland, Oregon) – While northwest United States skies appear to have been too clouded over to see the meteor showers in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, those in Portland, Oregon did get to see two nights of what are called “moon halos.”
The first happened Monday night and was a bit of a curious and ragged incarnation of the phenomenon – which is caused by ice crystals – and the second occurred briefly and in a more uniform fashion on Wednesday night around 9 p.m.
A moon halo can be a whitish ring around the moon, sometimes in a huge circle taking up much of the sky, and other times in can be a kind of roundish rainbow.
Monday night's moon halo was more of a multicolored occurrence, sometimes broken up a bit to form a shape that looked a little like Pac Man (as seen above).
On Tuesday night, it was a solid round shape. Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff did not catch the phenomenon the second night.
Portland-area weather expert Steve Pierce pointed to the website Indiana Public Media and its explanation. http://indianapublicmedia.org/amomentofscience/a-ring-around-the-moon/
“Moon halos are caused by tiny ice crystals that have gathered twenty thousand feet above the ground, as thin, wispy clouds,” the website says. “These clouds are so thin, you might not notice them at night, if it weren’t for their effect on the moonlight. Incoming light rays from the moon are bent, or diffracted, by these ice crystals at an angle of 22 degrees. This means that in addition to the direct moonlight, you will also see diffracted moonlight in a circle 22 degrees away from the moon. This is about the distance of your fist, held at arm’s length.”
The halos can have a rainbow quality, according to the website. Red will be on the inside and blue on the outside, although in these shots taken above Portland it appears the opposite is true.
The website said these can mean rain or snow are coming soon, and they are often the forerunners of storm clouds right behind. That was not true Monday night, interestingly enough. But major storm systems are set to hit the Oregon coast later on Wednesday and rain will likely arrive in Portland by the morning.
Oregon Coast Beach Connection was able to zoom in on the moon Monday and get a rather spectacular, up close shot of it.
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