Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Moon Looked Huge Last Night

(Photo by Fotomom in Glendale)
Last night, driving home from a party in Marina Del Rey, I had a great view of the moon from the freeway. The moon looked huge in the sky. Not just a plain ole full moon, but almost distorted in shape because it looked so big, and it was low on the horizon, glowing yellow/orange in color. "Whoa!" I said out loud. I remembered that on Friday I caught the headline "Saturday's Full Moon Offers Strange Illusion" on Yahoo's homepage, which I briefly scanned. Below is an excerpt from the article which explains why the moon looked so huge last night.
Saturday's Full Moon Offers Strange Illusion
Senior Science Writer
Fri Jun 29, 2:00 PM ET

This weekend's full moon hangs lower in the sky than any other full moon of 2007, according to NASA, and it's a good time to be fooled.

When low on the horizon, the Moon can appear to be larger than when it's higher in the sky. It's all an illusion, scientists say, and it does not involve any enlarging effects of the atmosphere. Rather, it's all in your mind.

Here's how it works:
Our brains think things on the horizon are farther away than stuff overhead, because we're used to seeing overhead clouds that are close compared to those on the horizon. In the mind's eye, the sky is a flattened dome.

With this dome as a reference, we expect something on the horizon (such as the moon) to be father, and because it is actually no farther than when overhead, our brains goof and imagine that it is larger.

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