A cloud cover recap of November & why Winter is the ideal stargazing season

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The seemingly endless cloudy sky over Michiana is finally breaking as we expect more sun approaching this weekend. 

Since the start of December, Michiana has tallied five straight days of cloudy conditions overhead from Dec.1-5. 

Last month was a different story in the sky, however. 

November 2023 tallied 18 sunny days, 7 partly cloudy days, and 5 cloudy days.

Sky conditions per day are tallied by observations on an hourly basis from both automated sensors and manual observers.

To determine if a day is "sunny," "partly cloudy," or "cloudy," the sensor (or meteorologist) divides up the sky into eight separate slices called "oktas."

Zero to one oktas indicates sunny/clear skies while seven to eight oktas are cloudy skies.

The daily prevailing/average sky conditions are determined by what category of cloud cover held the majority of the daytime.

While our winter started off with consecutive daily overcast sky conditions, this season is routinely the most ideal of the year to go stargazing. Why?

The answer lies in one of the biggest thermodynamic differences between warm and cold air: total moisture content.

Colder air cannot hold as much moisture as warm air can, resulting in less water droplets available to condense and therefore fewer chances for haze to develop.

The results are increased vertical visibility and sharper colors during dawn and dusk, both of which are conducive to better overhead conditions for you to see your favorite constellations. 

The opposite occurs during the summer when warmer, fully saturated air is more readily available to condense, producing a layer of haze that obscures the upper levels and limits stargazing.

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