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Halo from Atacama

By: Yuri Beletsky

 

Region: Americas

Site: Las Campanas - Chile

Date: 2016 May 13

Seen on Astronomy Picture of the Day. Influenced by the strong Pacific El Nino, cloudy skies was more frequent in Chile's high Atacama Desert in 2016, despite its reputation as an astronomer's paradise. Located in one of the driest, darkest places on planet Earth, domes of the region's twin 6.5 meter Magellan telescopes of Carnegie Las Campanas Observatory were closed on this image from 2016 May 13. Still, a first quarter Moon and bright stars shine through in this panoramic night skyscape, the lunar disk surrounded by a beautiful, bright halo. The angular radius of the halo is 22 degrees. Not determined by the brightness or phase of the Moon itself, the angle is set by the hexagonal geometry of atmospheric ice crystals that reflect and refract the moonlight. On that night, the brilliant star just inside the halo's radius was really planet Jupiter. The brightest star flanking the halo to the far left is Canopus, with Arcturus on the halo's right. Yuri Beletsky

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