As intelligent as we are, as human’s we aren’t endowed with the most powerful of eyes. Sure, most of us can see the full glory of the ROYGBIV rainbow, but, it requires special devices for us to perceive specific frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Indeed, perception plays a big part of the entire equation. As humans, we can only tell our narrative from our own point of view. Mystical as the celestial bodies may be, some of the most wondrous things can actually be explained by once you factor in our limitations.
While the Moon certainly appears to change color during certain moments of the year, in truth, nothing much changes on the moon, it’s always the same color.
So what makes the color of the Moon appear to change? Well, turns out it’s actually a combination of two things, our viewing angle paired with the composition of Earth’s atmosphere.
To travel around the Earth, the Moon takes about a month. As it moves about the Earth, you need to also remember that Earth is not stationary, rather, it’s spinning on its axis. Importantly, the Earth and Moon are always in orbit around the sun.
With this in mind, it’s clear to see why the Moon usually has a different route through the sky each night.
When the Moon is hanging really low in the sky i.e. close to the horizon, you may have noticed that it appears to be brilliantly orange. If you’ve ever been curious about what causes this, then, you’ll be glad to know it’s because you’re viewing the Moon through much more of Earth’s atmosphere than when the Moon is up there in the sky.
As mentioned earlier, the Earth is beautifully made. Our home planet’s atmosphere consists of a sphere of gases. When you’re viewing the Moon when it straight above the Earth, you’re actually looking through a thin band of the atmosphere.
On the other hand, when you’re viewing the Moon when it’s close to the horizon, you’re viewing through a thicker layer of Earth’s atmosphere.
Since Earth’s atmosphere consists of a plethora of airborne particles that absorb and scatter light, shorter wavelength’s of light are likely to be more scattered than longer wavelengths.
On the flip side, blue light consists of shorter wavelengths, therefore, this kind of light easily get scattered.
Given this background, it’s perfectly understandable why both the Sun and the Moon appear red when rising or setting. Since these are usually moments when the celestial bodies are near the horizon, your eyes are only able to perceive them once the light from them goes through the max amount of atmospheric exposure.
As a natural satellite, the Moon does not produce any light of its own. Instead, it’s fully dependent on the Sun to provide light.
When total lunar eclipses occur (i.e. when the Earth is situated between the Sun and the Moon), the Moon adapts a reddish hue since there’s almost zero sunlight hitting the lunar surface.
This Red Moon happening is at times referred to as Blood Moon. While there are a ton of mythologies about this phenomenon, the reddish coloration is brought about by Rayleigh scattering. This is actually the same concept we covered earlier about how Earth’s atmospheric content (dust, moisture, and cloud levels), contribute towards the color of the Moon.
The phrase “Once in a Blue Moon” is actually quite common. That said, the Moon rarely actually looks blue. From data, we know that Blue Moons happens every 3 years or so.
Unique from the Red Moon scenario, Blue Moons can occur during any lunar phase. The Blue Moon hue emanates from increased dust or smoke particles in the atmosphere. Incidences like massive forest fires and volcanic eruptions occasionally trigger the emergence of the Blue Moon phenomenon.
That wraps up our review on what makes the color of the Moon to change. We’re confident you’ve been able to pick up a thing or two about how the Blue Moon and Red Moon arise.
The Moon has captivated the human imagination throughout history. Though it is ever-present, there is so little we know. We wanted to bring the Moon closer, to bring all of our stargazing dreams into reality. With the inspiration of holding the moon in your hands, AstroReality creates the most precisely made Moon model – LUNAR Pro, that satisfies your space curiosity.
Besides the planetary models, AstroReality is bringing space to your everyday life, for you to experience the Moon in a brand new way. We designed and crafted the Moon Mug that gives you a sip of Moon together with the Moon Phase of tonight in Augmented Reality.
Be one of the first to experience the Moon Mug by signing up our email newsletter today, and stay tuned with the latest updates from AstroReality.