Cool Clouds: Iridescent clouds near Monday night’s Moon

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Darren Wagner snapped a cool picture of some shiny clouds near the Moon Monday evening near New Market.  It’s not the classic “halo” associated with the famous “ring around the moon means rain is coming soon.”  It’s actually iridescence.

Iridescence, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a lustrous rainbowlike play of color caused by differential refraction of light waves (as from an oil slick, soap bubble, or fish scales) that tends to change as the angle of view changes.”  (What is “refraction?”)

EarthSky.org explains the difference and how this happens:


“These colorful clouds are called iridescent clouds. When you see a cloud like this, you know there are especially tiny ice crystals or water droplets in the air. Larger ice crystals produce solar or lunar halos, but tiny ice crystals or water droplets cause light to be diffracted – spread out – creating this rainbow-like effect in the clouds.

The phenomenon is called cloud iridescence or irisation. The term comes from Iris, the Greek personification of the rainbow.”

While there is no old-timer weather lore to go with iridescent clouds around the Moon, we do expect some showers and thunderstorms in the near future. Be sure to check the forecast at WHNT.com/Weather or swipe over to the daily forecast section on Live Alert 19 to see which days bring the best chance of clouds, rain and some heavy storms through the weekend!

Got a cool picture to share? Get in touch with us on social media (below), use the Live Alert 19 app to submit a photo, or e-mail us at photo@whnt.com!

-Jason
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