March 31, 1998
transcript #: 227-2
Subject(s): corona, moon, rings
As usual, this winter the elk have been down in the Animas River Valley.
Weather Notebook commentator Becky Rumsey.
On moonlit nights you can glimpse them, patiently waiting to cross the road or suddenly lifting their heads from an evening meal of apple branches or brown meadow grass. If the moon is bright enough, you can see bits of shrubbery dangling from their mouths. The other night there were rings around the moon. It was nearly full and the glowing circles were gold and magenta. Ive learned recently that theres a name for this. Its called a corona. And its common in the mountains in the winter. It happens when water droplets diffract light rays as they pass through thin clouds. The smaller the drops, the larger the rings. A long time ago, before anyone had walked on the moon, there was a legend that it was a treasure house of all that was lost or wasted on earth. There, on the moon, all our misspent time, broken promises, unanswered prayers. Think of it: the moon with craters of good intentions, mountains of wasted talents, and seas of fruitless tears. Now that we know better, we have no place to go to retrieve these things. But wouldnt it be great if an occasional moonbath were all we needed to soak up some of what weve lost? Looking at the moon the other night, I tried tracing the path of one lost ray. From the shine on a piece of dry grass in an elks mouth, to a wisp of cloud, through a prism of water, all the way to the surface of the moon and then, clear out to the sun.
Becky Rumsey comes to us from her home in Durango, Colorado. Our show is funded by the National Science Foundation with underwriting provided by Subaru, the beauty of all wheel drive.
Images from: The Audobon Society Field Guide to Norrth American Weather