NOW the weather has turned 'nippy' after what seems like months and months of cloud and rain, stargazers and sky-watchers are desperately hoping for some clear, frosty nights in the weeks and months ahead, writes STUART ATKINSON. But you don't have to wait for darkness to fall to see amazing and beautiful things in the sky.

On these chilly days when the sky is a spectacular blue and the Sun is blindingly bright, you should be on the look out for optical phenomena close to the Sun. Although the sky can look clear, thin icy clouds high up in the atmosphere can cause all sorts of lovely effects around the Sun. The most common are Sundogs or parhelia. These are small glowing arcs which can often be seen on either side of the Sun when it is low in the sky. Usually they are just splashes of silver or gold, but sometimes they look like brightly-coloured mini-rainbows, and can grow really bright.

Look out also for Sun pillars, columns of silver or gold light pointing straight up from the Sun when it has just set or before it has risen. These can grow very bright.

When the Sun is higher in the sky, keep an eye out for solar haloes, beautiful glowing rings surrounding the Sun. You've probably seen haloes around the Moon before, they're quite common, but the Sun sometimes has them too.

And speaking of the Moon, on any frosty, misty nights that come our way look out for rare Moonbows, which are, as their name suggests, rainbows cast by the Moon instead of the Sun.