When you gaze up at a bright, full moon you may notice a circular band of light surrounding it. This beautiful phenomenon has fascinated people for millennia, but what is its proper name?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The ring around the moon is called a lunar halo or moon ring.

In this in-depth article, we will explore the full name and origin of the moon ring, how it is formed, the science behind it, associated folklore and superstitions, how to view and photograph the lunar halo, and more.

Official Name and Meaning

The official name for the ring around the moon is a lunar halo or moon ring. This phenomenon occurs when light from the moon is refracted or bent by ice crystals in the Earth’s atmosphere. The light is then scattered in all directions, creating a circular halo around the moon.

Origin and Etymology

The term “lunar halo” comes from the Latin word “luna,” meaning moon, and the Greek word “halos,” meaning a circular band of light. The name accurately describes the appearance of the ring around the moon.

Other Common Names

While the official name for the phenomenon is a lunar halo, it is also known by several other common names. Some people refer to it as a moon ring or a moon halo. In some cultures, it is believed to be a sign of good luck or a predictor of upcoming weather conditions.

It is important to note that a lunar halo should not be confused with a solar halo, which is a similar phenomenon that occurs around the sun. The main difference between the two is that a lunar halo is visible at night when the moon is in the sky, while a solar halo is visible during the day when the sun is in the sky.

To learn more about lunar halos and other atmospheric phenomena, you can visit websites like www.atoptics.co.uk or www.timeanddate.com.

Formation and Science

The ring around the moon, also known as a lunar halo, is a fascinating optical phenomenon that has intrigued people for centuries. It is not caused by any physical ring or object around the moon, but rather by the interaction of moonlight with the Earth’s atmosphere.

Caused by refraction of moonlight

The formation of the ring around the moon is primarily caused by the refraction of moonlight through tiny ice crystals in the Earth’s atmosphere. These ice crystals act as prisms, bending and scattering the light in different directions.

When the moonlight passes through these ice crystals, it gets refracted, or bent, resulting in the formation of a halo or ring.

This phenomenon occurs when the moon is relatively close to the horizon, and the moonlight has to pass through a greater thickness of the Earth’s atmosphere. This is why lunar halos are more commonly observed during the night when the moon is low in the sky.

Ice crystals in cirrostratus clouds

The ice crystals responsible for creating the ring around the moon are typically found in high-altitude cirrostratus clouds. These thin and wispy clouds are composed of tiny ice particles, which are perfect for refracting light and creating optical phenomena like lunar halos.

The shape and size of the ice crystals play a crucial role in determining the appearance of the ring around the moon. Different crystal shapes can produce various optical effects, such as arcs, pillars, or even multiple rings.

Related optical phenomena

Lunar halos are just one of several optical phenomena that can be observed in the sky. Other related phenomena include sun halos, sundogs, and light pillars. These phenomena occur when sunlight or moonlight interacts with ice crystals or water droplets in the atmosphere, resulting in the bending and scattering of light.

If you’re interested in learning more about optical phenomena, you can visit https://www.atoptics.co.uk/. This website provides a comprehensive collection of images and information about various atmospheric optical phenomena, including lunar halos.

Next time you see a ring around the moon, take a moment to appreciate the beauty and science behind this captivating phenomenon. It’s a reminder of the wonders that can be found in the natural world.

Folklore and Superstitions

The ring around the moon, also known as a lunar halo, has been the subject of various folklore and superstitions throughout history. People have long been fascinated by this celestial phenomenon and have attributed different meanings to it.

Let’s explore some of the beliefs associated with the ring around the moon.

Association with weather forecasts

One common belief surrounding the ring around the moon is its association with weather forecasts. According to folklore, a ring around the moon indicates that rain or snow is on its way. This belief has been passed down through generations and is still prevalent in many cultures today.

While there is no scientific evidence to support this claim, it is interesting to see how people have relied on natural phenomena to predict weather patterns.

Links to myths and religions

The ring around the moon has also been linked to myths and religions in various cultures. In Greek mythology, for example, the lunar halo was seen as a sign of the moon goddess’s presence. It was believed that the ring around the moon was a manifestation of her power and influence.

Similarly, in some Native American tribes, the lunar halo was considered a sacred symbol and was associated with spiritual events and celestial beings.

Good and bad omens

In many cultures, the ring around the moon has been seen as both a good and bad omen. Some believe that it signifies a period of good luck and prosperity, while others interpret it as a warning of impending doom or disaster.

The interpretation of the lunar halo as a positive or negative sign often varies depending on the specific cultural beliefs and superstitions of a particular society.

It’s important to note that while folklore and superstitions can be fascinating, they should not be taken as scientific fact. The ring around the moon is a natural phenomenon caused by the refraction and reflection of light through ice crystals in the atmosphere.

Understanding the science behind this phenomenon can help us appreciate its beauty while also appreciating the rich cultural significance it holds in different societies.

Viewing and Photographing

Viewing and photographing the ring around the moon can be a fascinating experience. Here are some tips to help you make the most of this celestial phenomenon.

Best conditions and times

To view the ring around the moon, you’ll need clear skies and minimal light pollution. The best time to observe this phenomenon is during a clear night when the moon is in its waxing or waning crescent phase.

During these phases, the angle between the sun, Earth, and moon is such that it creates the perfect conditions for the ring to appear.

Additionally, it’s important to note that the ring around the moon is most visible when the moon is high in the sky. This allows for a clearer view without any obstructions. So try to find a location with a clear view of the sky.

Location tips

When it comes to finding the perfect location to view and photograph the ring around the moon, there are a few factors to consider. Firstly, try to find an area away from city lights and light pollution. This will ensure that the sky is as dark as possible, allowing for a better view of the ring.

Secondly, consider the landscape around you. A location with an unobstructed view of the horizon will provide a more dramatic backdrop for your photographs.

Camera settings and techniques

When photographing the ring around the moon, it’s important to use the right camera settings and techniques to capture the best possible image.

Start by using a tripod to stabilize your camera. This will help eliminate any shaky or blurry images. Additionally, using a remote shutter release or the self-timer function on your camera can further reduce camera shake.

Adjust your camera settings to a low ISO to minimize noise and a longer shutter speed to capture more light. Experiment with different exposure times to find the right balance.

Lastly, consider using a telephoto lens to capture a close-up shot of the ring around the moon. This will allow you to capture more details and create a stunning image.

Remember, practice makes perfect. Don’t be discouraged if your first attempts don’t turn out as expected. With time and patience, you’ll be able to capture amazing shots of the ring around the moon.

Historical Observations and Records

Early documentation

Humans have been observing celestial phenomena for centuries, and the ring around the moon is no exception. Early documentation of this phenomenon can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as the Greeks and the Chinese.

These ancient cultures believed that the ring around the moon was a sign of impending weather changes or significant events.

The ancient Greeks referred to this ring as a “halo” and associated it with the goddess Iris, who was believed to be the messenger of the gods. They believed that the appearance of the halo indicated that the gods were trying to communicate with them.

The Chinese, on the other hand, saw the ring around the moon as a sign of good fortune. They believed that it brought luck and prosperity to those who witnessed it. In fact, they even had a saying that went, “A ring around the moon brings good luck soon.”

Notable viewings throughout history

Throughout history, there have been several notable viewings of the ring around the moon. One such instance was during the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815. The volcanic ash and debris in the atmosphere caused the moon to appear surrounded by a brilliant ring.

This event was documented by various scientists and artists of the time.

Another notable viewing occurred during the total solar eclipse of 1919. Astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington observed that the ring around the moon was distorted due to the bending of light by gravity, providing evidence for Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Today, with advancements in technology and the widespread availability of cameras, more and more people are capturing images of the ring around the moon. These images are often shared on social media platforms, creating a sense of wonder and awe among viewers.

For further information on celestial phenomena and historical observations, you can visit NASA’s official website. They provide detailed articles and resources on various astronomical events and discoveries.


The glowing ring around the moon has inspired awe, curiosity, and even fear for thousands of years. Now we know it as a lunar halo, created by moonlight passing through ice crystals high in our atmosphere. This beautiful phenomenon has a rich scientific and cultural history.

With the right conditions you can observe and photograph it yourself and connect to the experience of generations past.

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