A moon halo was spotted by residents on Sunday night.
A moon halo was spotted by residents on Sunday night.

Strange phenomenon puzzling Coast explained

A mysterious ring around the moon has been explained as an optical phenomenon, similar to a rainbow.

Residents in Palmwoods, Tanawah and Pelican Waters posted photos to Facebook of the glowing ring surrounding the full moon on Sunday night.

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Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Rosa Hoff said there was a simple explanation for the occurrence, known as a moon halo.

"Halos are produced by looking at the moon through a really really thin layer of cloud. That thin layer is quite high up in the atmosphere, and it's really cold and there are a lot of ice crystals," she said.

"The moon light hits the ice crystals and scatters, so it bounces around and comes out at a particular angle and that's what produces that distinctive ring."

While not uncommon, Ms Hoff said many variables needed to be in place for the ring to become visible.

"Having a lot of moon light is good in order to have them happen, so the fact that we had the full moon would have helped it be so pronounced. We also need the thin layer of high-level cloud," she said.

"For Queensland the high-level cloud is a bit more common in winter then in summer … that high level of cloud does happen fairly often.

"We hear about moon halos several times a year but they are much more common in the southern states."

A moon halo spotted in Tanawha.
A moon halo spotted in Tanawha.

Like rainbows, moon halos can only be seen from certain angles.

"The ice crystals are flat little hexagons, so when the moonlight hits the ice crystal and moves through it, it gets refracted at a 22-degree angle, so you need to look at it and be in the right orientation compared to those crystals to see it," Ms Hoff said.

"It's likely that a large amount of people would have seen the halo on Sunday because the high level cloud is so far away that it's difficult over a small area to get a drastically different view, but if someone was looking at it from Kingaroy they may have seen something slightly different.

"It just depends on lining up those ice crystals with the moon and looking at it at the correct angle."

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One member of the Welcome to Palmwoods page said she could see the ring in Ninderry.

"Looks so amazing. Old farmers tale was the number of stars you see inside the ring is the number of days until rain," she wrote.

"It's pretty amazing," another Facebook user wrote.