A journey into the eyes and mind of a naturalist.

Bad Moon Rising

A rising moon has a lot of mythology behind it.  It rings in a foreboding mood or an evil afoot.  In classic horror movies there is always a full moon hanging above the mayhem below.  In actuality watching a full moon rise is nothing short of awe inspiring and peaceful, aside from the zombies rising from the grave…

Last week I had a student ask me why the moon is orange when it comes up.  This is a good questions that actually has a lot of science behind it.   The reason is the same reason that sunrise and sunset are full of reds and oranges but at noon the sunlight is white.   As the moon rises what we see is light reflected from the sun.  The sun reflects off the moon and passes through the atmosphere on it’s way to your eye.  When the moon, or the sun, rises or sets that light must pass through more of the atmosphere due the angle of your eye and the horizon.  As that angle decreases the light must travel through more and more air.  As the light travels through the atmosphere different wavelengths are reflected and refracted off the particles within the atmosphere,  water, pollution, methane, and others.  The wavelengths of light that reach our eye are mostly reds and orange.  The blues, green and other wavelengths don’t make it to your eye therefore we perceive a spectacular sunrise or moonrise.

At noon angle between the sun and the horizon is at it’s peak, or zenith.  This means the light passes through a much thinner slice of atmosphere allowing all the wavelengths of light to reach your eye which we interpret as “white” light.  In this case white is not the absence of color of a combination of all the colors (ROY G BIV).

Note the lens flare from the moon on that last one!!   Usually you get lens flare from the bright sun passing through the thick glass of your lens.  Some of that light is reflected off the inner surface of the glass creating a “flare”.  In this case the light from the moon was bright enough to cause a flare!  A photographic first for me!!

You really haven’t lived unless you have watched the sunrise or the moonrise.  Go outside and experience it for yourself…just watch out for zombies if its a full moon…

Up Next:  The Beetles

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