Weekly Notes ~ Winter Sky

Winter Sky

sundog Parhelia

I took this picture of a Sundog on Christmas Eve while traveling through Bowdoinham.  Scientifically called a Parhelia, it is created when the sun’s rays are refracted through ice crystals in the sky.  These color spots happen when the sun is 22 – 24 degrees above the horizon and are at the same altitude as the sun.  The strongest red-orange color is nearest the sun; in the picture above, the sun is to the right.


We have gained only six minutes in daylight since the winter solstice, yet the sun is already setting later than it did in all of December!  Now that is something to celebrate as we ponder the making of resolutions for a new year.

Thinking you’d like to keep a Nature Journal in 2014?  One of the simplest ways is to use a monthly calendar or date book.  Keep it near the coffee pot and each morning make note of the temperature, the current weather and track the time when the first of the sun’s morning rays peak into your windows.

In the wee hours between darkness and sunrise, step outside and take note of the winter sky.  Can you find Orion and the Big Dipper?  Make note of their location above you.  In the early hours is the Big Dipper right side up, up-side down, standing on its handle or do you have to lean way back to see that it is pouring into your coffee cup?  Make a simple sketch on your calendar of what you see.

Bernie has included the January night sky chart to help with star identification.  Click here for Bernie Reim’s Astronomy report for January.

Maine Nature News has an Ice Strength Chart however you should never assume ice is safe from simply reading a chart as there are many factors that can affect its strength and personal safety is your personal priority and responsibility.  Although we have had extremely cold temperatures the layer of snow on top of the ice acts as an insulting blanket therefore there may not be as much as ice as would be expected.  Also conditions such as spring-holes and currents beneath the surface keep the water moving just enough not freeze completely.  Maine Nature News reminds you to never be to cautious.  Click here for the Ice Depth Strength Chart.….

December’s ice storm was caused by Glaze Ice, which forms when precipitation is falling as rain that is colder than 32F degrees but still in liquid form.  At this stage it is called  Supercooled, and when the liquid then comes into contact with a solid particle it freezes upon contact.

Ice 2013