The moon was orange

Or was it the moon? On August 12, 2003, while visiting in Indianapolis, I looked into the southern sky. It was approximately 9:30 p.m… The moon was a large as I’ve ever seen it and as orange as I’ve never seen it. The next day while I was only halfway paying attention to the noon news, I thought I heard the weatherman say that Mars was visible for the next several nights. But since then I’ve learned that it isn’t until August 27-28, that Mars will be the bright orange orb in the sky. So, what was it I saw that night? It sure was wicked looking!

We had the same thing way over here in New Zealand both my husband and I were fascinated with the orange luminescence it was giving off…really quite bizzarre as I have never seen anything like that before!

Probably the moon through a haze of dust or smoke. Mars, even at close approach, isn’t that big to look at.

It was the moon. Refraction through the earth’s atmosphere will make it appear orange and large. I bet it was very low in the sky, right? Higher up, and it’ll be the normal ol’ small white moon you know.

Mars wouldn’t be a tiny fraction of that apparent size. Mars’ current relative closeness doesn’t make an awful lot of difference. It’s still a speck.

OK, I’m convinced it was the moon. But are you implying that the reports that Mars will appear as big as the moon are exaggerations?

Yes it was the same here nr. London and yes it was very low in the sky, I just assumed it was because I was looking at it from a particulartly acute angle through the atmosphere directly above London after a hot day.

No, but on August 27th it will be as CLOSE to the moon as it’s been in 50,000 years or so. Worth a second look!

Mars will not be anywhere near as big as the moon. In fact, local observatories open to the public are saying, “well, on one hand it’s good that the news reports about Mars are getting the public interested, because that’s good for astronomy. On the other hand, we are keen to let them know what to expect, so that they won’t be disappointed.”

Even through a telescope, in the coming weeks, Mars won’t be showing that much more detail than it currently does. It will still appear star-like to the average naked-eye observer.

Bummer! Well, thanks for input…

The Full Moon is 1800 arcseconds across (from Bad Astronomer).

Mars will be 25 arcseconds late August, compared to 5 arcseconds as it usually is. Cite

I also received an email a week ago stating that mars will be as big as a full moon. The first thing I did was check, but there was nothing there on this BS. I had to do the research myself before sending back a reply setting the record straight. Phil if you read this can you please put in a dubunk. :slight_smile:

Yeah, I agree. A big red planet hovering large in the sky would be utter coolness. As beautiful as our night sky is, we earthlings have a pretty dull one. Only one moon, other planets in our system a distance away… Oh well…

Most of those reports are based on a badly phrased text that’s been circulating that says at 75 power magnification Mars will look as big as the moon does to the naked eye. It’s really easy to read it as meaning that Mars will be as big as the moon. I wrote half of a rebuttal to it before I read it carefully and noticed the phrasing.

Out of curiosity, do you know if the magnifying effect is due to anything other than this refraction through the atmosphere? I’ve sometimes speculated that it also has to do with the way the human mind deals with perspective.

Essentially, my hypothesis is that when the moon is seen behind what the observer knows to be a distant horizon, the mind will remind itself that objects at that approximately infinite distance look small only because they are so far away, and then will enlarge the moon’s apparent size accordingly When the moon rises higher in the sky, the lack of a sense of scale from earthbound objects prevents the mind from applying the same optical illusion that it normally does to distant objects. Does this have any basis in reality?

The enlargement of the apparent size of the Moon near the horizon is entirely an optical illusion. If you use a pair of calipers at arm’s length to mark the size of the Moon at is zenith and again near the horizon when it seems large, you will find them to be identical. You can clearly show this in photographs too. Use the same lens for both shots, and you can use a ruler to prove the moon is the same size, no matter how it seems to your eye.

Thanks, Q.E.D.. So the entire effect is due to the way our mind scales distant objects?

Well, Q.E.D. beat me to the punch, but at least I’ve got the cite.

Basically, although there is some controversy about exactly what’s happening, Publius’ explanation is a good summary of the most commonly accepted theory.

Basically, yes. Here is a decent explanation of the illusion.

Yeah, here in Northeast Ohio, it has been reddish lately. Last year around this time, it was reddish also.

The Moon stays lower in the sky during summer, and rides high in winter.

Regarding the OP, a common cause of red tint is smoke or dust in our atmosphere. Have there been any forest fires in your region lately?