The Moon Illusion

April 9, 2012 |

 This was the moon over Manhattan Saturday night.

It was a great example of the phenomenon known as the Moon illusion. The viewer's brain plays tricks on the eye that result in an optical illusion that the Moon is considerably larger nearer the horizon than when it's higher up in the sky. It's not larger actually, but it certainly looks like it is.
When it happens it's breathtaking to behold. One of my favorite natural phenomena.

The first time I saw it was in NYC and it was extremely low on the horizon. An absolutely gigantic sight, it was framed by the tall buildings of a crosstown street I was walking down. It looked like a huge orange beach ball sitting on the ground somewhere just across the East River.

All the pedestrian traffic stopped and everybody just stared eastward at it. In silence, mesmerized. Finally some kid asked me, "Why did the Moon land in Queens?"

I told him it was re-fueling at LaGuardia.

Judging by his nodding reaction, I think he bought it.


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