… look at the weather instead.

We were enthused by “Stargazing Live” and were keen to go out and look at the night sky. Well, I don’t know what it was like in your neck of the woods but yesterday evening here was a bit cloudy. So I wasn’t too optimistic about seeing much. Wrapped up warm we went outside just in case.

Overhead we could make out the constellation Cassiopaeia – that’s the one where, if you join up the dots so to speak, it makes the shape of an ‘W” (or ‘M’ or ‘3’ or even a ‘Σ’ depending which way round you see it). On the other hand, I could only make out some of the stars of Orion and I only knew where to find those from looking a couple of nights before. In fact, anything close to the horizon was lost in the night-time haze.

Jupiter managed to show itself but, even with binoculars (10×50), there was no chance of making out any of its moons. Meanwhile, we did see the earth’s moon nearby in the SW sky. It was not quite half full but we could see a few of its craters – despite the fact that it was like looking through net curtains. With binoculars we could see some towards the bottom of the moon (South?). Please don’t ask me what they’re called – we did well to spot them at all.

Then we noticed the halos. I realised this morning that there was also one round Jupiter but we did not pay it any attention. Around the moon there were two halos: rings of bright cloud, around the shape of the moon, each with a width roughly (of the same order as) that of the moon itself. The inner ring was fairly bright, the outer one was less obvious and only really noticeable when you looked for it (i.e. after you’d seen the first one). The rings went around the shape of the whole moon, not just the brightly lit portion.

What struck me in particular was the fact that the halo (especially the bright one closest to the moon) was not perfectly circular. It was more like a capital ‘D’ – slightly more rounded than the not-yet-half full moon. I have seen rings around the moon before only then it was a cold frosty night with very high cloud where the full moon lit up a whole patch of the sky. This was my first view of a D-shaped halo.

So in the end we did not do much star-gazing but I did see something I had never seen before. As we went indoors we remarked “If you can’t see the stars, look at the weather.”