A beautiful Moon ring

Posted on September 15, 2008. Filed under: astronomy, atmosphere, atmospheric effects, Earth, geography, ice crystals, knowledge, light, Moon, Moon halo, Moon rings, moonbow, moonlight, natural phenomenon, nature, rainbow, refraction, ring around the Moon, science, sky, stargazing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Three nights ago, when I casually looked out of the window at the sky, I could not help exclaiming, “Wow!” It was a partly clear sky and the Moon was in its Waxing Gibbous phase. But I could observe a brilliant ring around the Moon. It formed a complete circle around the Earth’s natural satellite. On observing it carefully, I noticed that the ring was actually made of multiple colours, like a rainbow, though the seven colours were not clearly distinguishable. Sometimes it is also referred to as a moonbow. Many others in my city seem to have noticed this beautiful phenomenon as well.

A brilliant Moon ring . . .

Photographer: Spiralstares (taken with a Canon PowerShot S200 on January 19, 2005)

Since it was the first time I was observing such a ring, I searched for information about Moon rings and this is what I found:

The ring around the Moon is caused by the refraction of moonlight (which of course is reflected sunlight) from ice crystals in the upper atmosphere. The shape of the ice crystals results in a focusing of the light into a ring. Since the ice crystals typically have the same shape, namely a hexagonal shape, the Moon ring is almost always the same size. The six-sided ice crystals refract, or bend, light in the same manner that a camera lens bends light. The ring has a diameter of 22° , and sometimes, if one is lucky, it is also possible to detect a second ring with a diameter of 44°. Thin high cirrus clouds lofting at 20,000 feet or more contain tiny ice crystals that originate from the freezing of super cooled water droplets. These crystals behave like jewels refracting and reflecting in different directions.

There are some interesting beliefs about Moon rings. Folklore has it that a ring around the Moon signifies that bad weather is coming, and in many cases this may be true. So how can rings around the Moon be a predictor of weather to come? The ice crystals that cover the halo signify high altitude, thin cirrus clouds that normally precede a warm front by one or two days. Typically, a warm front will be associated with a low pressure system which is commonly referred to as a storm. Some even believe that the number of stars within a Moon ring indicate the number days before bad weather will arrive. Read more about Moon rings and other moonlight effects on this site.

Have you ever observed this natural phenomenon?

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This cute bird belongs to a new species!

Posted on August 17, 2008. Filed under: Africa, animals, biology, bird watching, birds, Earth, Earthlings, fauna, Gabon, knowledge, nature, new species, news, olive-backed forest robin, ornithology, science, Stiphrornis pyrrholaemus, taxonomy, Uncategorized, zoology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

A new bird species has been discovered in the forests of Gabon in Africa. Read this article from the Science Daily for more information about the discovery.

The olive-backed forest robin (Stiphrornis pyrrholaemus) . . .

Image: Science Daily

The bird has been named as the olive-backed forest robin for its distinctive olive back and rump. The average adult is about 11.5 centimetres long and weighs about 18 grams. The birds have a white dot in front of each eye. The male has a bright orange throat and breast, a yellow belly and a black head. The female has the same colours but appears dull when compared to the male.

Though the bird was first observed by scientists from the Smithsonian Institution in 2001 in the south-western part of Gabon, it has been officially recognised as a new species only now after scientists collected more specimens and compared their DNA to those of the other known forest robins.

While we keep hearing of species becoming extinct or getting endangered at an alarming rate, this discovery would definitely bring cheer to the hearts of ornithologists and other nature lovers!

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Can Google take on Wikipedia with Knol?

Posted on July 25, 2008. Filed under: encyclopædia, Google, internet, Knol, knowledge, news, random, technology, Wikipedia, world wide web | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Google has launched a beta version of Knol (a unit of knowledge), a potential Wikipedia rival.

Google claims a Knol is an authoritative article about a specific topic. Anyone can share their knowledge by writing a Knol. In some ways, a Knol is like a blog post, but one that disseminates knowledge about a particular topic. A Knol author may choose to let anyone edit his/her Knol or prevent it from being edited. By default, moderated collaboration is enabled, which means someone can edit the article only if it gets the approval of the author. Like blogs, anyone can comment on Knols. And like blogs, a Knol may not always present neutral views on controversial topics. This is not that big a disadvantage because there are bound to be different Knols on the same topic written by different persons. Knol authors can also collaborate with others if they wish. Authors can also make money by choosing to include advertisements by Google AdSense. At the moment, Knols can be written only in languages that use the Roman script, but other languages will be included in the future.

Wikipedia works in a different manner. Anyone can create/edit a Wikipedia article but it would be reviewed so that false, irrelevant and unnecessary information does not get published. For articles on controversial topics, the neutrality can be disputed and it would be mentioned at the top of the article. Wikipedia articles exist in almost all languages of the world.

So, will Knol be able to challenge Wikipedia as the most used online encyclopædia? Whether it does or not, Knol is a welcome addition to the world wide web. We live in an age where instant access to knowledge is of paramount importance and more sources of knowledge would be heartily welcomed by netizens. Wikipedia would be my first choice. Which one would you prefer?

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