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The question asks why does the full moon appear red sometimes. The moon appears red when it is near the horizon. This answer addresses that aspect of moon reddening. Rayleigh Scattering The moon appears red sometimes for the same reason the sky appears blue. It is due to a phenomenon called Rayleigh scattering, named after Lord Rayleigh (1842-1919). Rayleigh scattering occurs when very tiny particles in the atmosphere deflect light in random directions. The likelihood of Rayleigh scattering is inversely proportional to the wavelength to the fourth power. That means Rayleigh scattering occurs much more prominently in shorter wavelengths of light (blue) and much less noticeably in longer wavelengths of light (red). Consider a beam of white light, made up of photons, passing through the atmosphere. Remember that white light is made up of all the colors in the rainbow. The blue photons are more likely to be deflected in random directions due to the Rayleigh scattering, whereas the red photons are less likely to be deflected. This process of scattering the blue photons creates a filtering effect. Because they are scattered off the path of the beam of light, fewer blue photons travel with the beam of light than red photons. So by the time the light reaches you, some of the blue has been removed, leaving a relative abundance of red light. The more atmosphere a beam of light travels through, the more intense the effect of Rayleigh scattering, meaning the more red (or less blue for you sticklers) the resulting beam of light becomes. Light that travels low across the horizon passes through much more atmosphere than light from directly overhead. Therefore the Rayleigh scattering is more intense when viewing objects near the horizon compared to viewing objects overhead. Red Moon That is why the moon looks redder when it is low on the horizon - the beam of light between the moon and you travels through much more atmosphere at a low angle of inclination compared to when the moon is overhead. Because the beam of light travels through more atmosphere, more Rayleigh scattering occurs, and therefore there is less blue light in the resulting beam of light than red light. Our eyes only register the light that strikes our retina - they do not know what proportion of blue to red light there was at the beginning of the beam of light's journey. Because there is less blue than red when the light strikes our retinas, our eyes record more red than blue, and we therefore see the moon in a reddish color. That is also why the sunset and sunrise appear red - the light from the sun travels through more atmosphere at sunrise and sunset compared to when the sun is overhead. When it is low in the sky, the air filters out more blue from the sunlight than red, and therefore we see a relative abundance of red. Blue SkyNow consider a ray of light passing horizontally high over your head. You do not see this beam of light, because it is not shining at you. But as it travels through the atmosphere overhead, Rayleigh scattering deflects some of the blue photons in random directions. A small proportion of those deflected blue photons are randomly directed toward you. Therefore, when you look up in the clear sky, you see blue. A partial eclipse from the Earth. When the light rays pass over the edge of the Earth they are filtered into more red than pure direct sunlight onto the surface of the moon. When there is a lot of dust or pollution in the atmosphere, a full moon may appear anywhere from buttery yellow to salmon to vivid orange to blood red - ''when it is fairly low in the sky''.

The angle at which you view the moon also contributes to it's apparent color.

You'll notice that as a full moon rises it will lose the reddish hue and retain its normal color. When the moon is low on the horizon you are viewing it through a thicker layer of atmosphere and therefore through more of the particles that happen to be in the air.

Refraction may also have something to do with this, but without further research into this I can't be sure.

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โˆ™ 2009-01-19 04:31:27
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โˆ™ 2015-03-23 06:13:38

The change in colour is due to the reflected light from the moon passing through dust in the earth's atmosphere.

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Q: Why does the full moon appear reddish sometimes?
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