Q:

Why does the moon change colors?

A:

Quick Answer

The moon appears to change colors sometimes due to the scattering of light through the atmosphere. Moonlight has to pass through more atmosphere when it is on the horizon than when it is higher in the sky. By the time the moonlight is visible, all of the fragments of light on the blue end of the color spectrum have been scattered away by the air molecules, leaving only red, yellow and orange pieces of light.

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Why does the moon change colors?
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Full Answer

The moon tends to look more reddish when it is closer to the horizon because its light must pass through heavier atmosphere. Once it has risen directly overhead, it looks more yellow or white. The same process occurs with the sun when it rises. During the day, the moon must also compete with sunlight being scattered through the atmosphere, which causes it to appear to be white.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    Why does the moon look orange?

    A:

    Any time the moon appears orange in the sky, it's because of light diffusion and refraction in the atmosphere. When the moon is low in the sky, the blue light reflected from its surface is scattered in the dense atmosphere, giving the moon a reddish-orange cast.

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  • Q:

    Why is the moon orange?

    A:

    The moon appears orange when the sunlight it reflects passes through a thicker portion of the Earth's atmosphere. Generally, the moon only appears orange when it is close to the horizon.

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  • Q:

    What is the meaning of a red moon?

    A:

    Scientifically speaking, there are three meanings for a red moon: that there is a lunar eclipse, that the moon is near the horizon and the light is passing through a larger amount of atmosphere or that particles in the air (from events like a forest fire or a volcanic eruption) are partially obscuring the light. Any of these conditions cause the light from the moon to be partially scattered, eliminating the blue and green parts of the visible light spectrum so that only red light filters through.

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  • Q:

    Does the moon have an atmosphere?

    A:

    According to NASA, the moon does have an atmosphere. Although the moon’s atmosphere is minimal in comparison to Earth’s – less than 1 million molecules in 1 cubic centimeter of moon air versus 10 quintillion molecules in 1 cubic centimeter of Earth air – it's still measurable.

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