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 . . .

Image: http://flickr.com/photos/spiralstares
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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Network of corridors to protect the European wildcat

Posted on August 31, 2008. Filed under: Africa, animals, Biological Station of Euskirchen, biology, BUND, Carpathian Mountains, cats, conservation, Doñana Biological Station, domestic cats, Earth, Earthlings, environment, Europe, European wildcat, fauna, Felidae, felines, Felis silvestris silvestris, France, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, League for the Environment and Nature Conservation Germ, nature, North Africa, OEKO-LOG field research, random, Rheinland-Pfalz, science, Spain, Spanish Council for Scientific Research, the Balkans, the E.U., wild animals, wildcats, wildlife, zoology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

An international team of researchers has proposed a network of corridors linking the habitats of the European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) to help this endangered species survive in its homeland. Read this article for more information.

Felis silvestris silvestris is a shy creature but is a born hunter like other cats . . .


Image: http://www.animalpicturesarchive.com

The European wildcat is a native of Europe that has been roaming the forests of the continent long before domestic cats were brought to Europe from North Africa. It looks very similar to the domesticated cat though they are not closely related. Their tails can most easily differentiate the two species: the stockier wildcat has got bushier hair there and more clearly defined dark rings. Mice serve as their main source of food. The German state of Rheinland-Pfalz is home to over half the estimated German wildcat population (between 3000 to 5000). Apart from Germany, the European wildcat survives in the Carpathian Mountains, the Balkans, Spain and France.

German and Spanish researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, the Freie Universität Berlin, the Doñana Biological Station of the Spanish Council for Scientific Research, OEKO-LOG field research and the Biological Station in Euskirchen have developed a model to identify the natural habitats of these cats and possible corridors to help isolated populations to mingle. The research was done by fitting radio-transmitters to twelve wildcats.

The wildcat is known to be a shy creature. The team discovered that they try to keep a safe distance from human settlements. Within a radius of one kilometre from human settlements, they were difficult to find. In the case of isolated human dwellings and roads, they try to maintain a safe distance of two hundred metres. This protects it from humans and their dogs and from being killed by motor vehicles and also prevents interbreeding with domesticated cats.

A project called “rescue network wildcat” was started by BUND (the League for the Environment and Nature Conservation Germany). Their mission is to develop a network comprising of corridors of some 20,000 kilometres over the coming years – the equivalent of half of the German Federal highway network.

With these efforts, the wildcats are being helped to return to areas which were once the home of their ancestors. Many more projects like this are needed throughout the world for members of the genus Felidae if we don’t want future generations to be left with only domestic cats.

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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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Don’t miss these celestial fireworks!

Posted on August 7, 2008. Filed under: astronomy, atmosphere, comets, Earth, Earthlings, meteor showers, Moon, news, Perseid meteor shower, Perseids, Perseus constellation, ram pressure, random, science, shooting stars, sky, space, stargazing, Sun, Swift-Tuttle comet | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Perseid meteor shower is expected to peak on the morning of August 12, 2008.

A Perseid streaking across the sky in St.Polycarpe, Quebec, Canada…


Image: Frederic Hore (from http://www.spaceweather.com)

Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through the orbit of a comet. Comets leave behind dust and other particles when they pass by the Sun. When the Earth moves through the orbit of a comet, these particles enter our atmosphere at a very high speed. Since most of them are tiny particles, they vapourise completely on entering the atmosphere due to the ram pressure (pressure exerted on an object as it passes through a fluid medium – can be a liquid or a gas), leaving a trail of light that is visible from the surface of the Earth as a “shooting star”.

This particular meteor shower appears to come from the Perseus constellation and has been named as the Perseid meteor shower. The Perseids occur when our planet passes through the orbit of the Swift-Tuttle comet.

The meteor shower will be quite active from August 8 to August 14, with the peak occurring on the morning of August 12. Once the Moon sets on August 12, one should be able to watch at least a few of these shooting stars in the dark sky before sunrise. The best place would be the countryside, as far away from the city as possible.

Hopefully, the Perseids won’t disappoint Earthlings waiting to catch a glimpse of these beautiful shooting stars! 🙂

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