Why the Moon is Red Sometimes

Sometimes, when we look up at the night sky, the moon’s surface can appear orange or even red even though it’s still its natural color. 5-Minute Crafts will explain to you the 3 scenarios in which this may happen.

1. A lunar eclipse might be happening.

During a total lunar eclipse (when the earth blocks the sun’s light from reaching the moon by lining up between them), the moon can be described as a “blood moon” because of its striking red color. This happens because the light that reaches its surface, comes from the edges of the earth’s atmosphere, which scatters (filters) out the blue light. The light that does pass through, is more red, giving the moon’s surface its unique glow.

2. The moon’s lower on the horizon.

When the moon is orange, it’s probably because it’s sitting very low on the horizon. This means its light had to go through a lot more of the atmosphere (more particles, gases, and even pollution) before reaching your eyes. In short, its light will, again, be scattered (filtered) to the point of it appearing more red to us.

3. It’s a Super Moon.

For a Super Moon to take place, 2 things need to happen. First, it needs to be at perigee (closest point to earth), second, it needs to be at its full phase. The moon will appear not only brighter, but also larger. However, this can be hard to notice with the naked eye, unless the moon is particularly close to the horizon.

The reason why it might appear red is either because of pollution or because the atmosphere is scattering (filtering) the light, like when it’s lower on the horizon. Additionally, the more pollution, the more enhanced the effect will be.

However, our brain will perceive it even larger, and brighter than it is, because of what’s called the “moon illusion.” Scientists justify this phenomenon by saying that we’re either comparing the moon to nearby objects or because our brain sees things on the horizon as bigger than other things in the sky.

  • Note: A Super moon will only happen a few times a year.
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