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Moon Magic
By Karen Fanning

moon
A time-lapse sequence of the moon rising over Seattle, Washington.
(Photo: 2001 Shay Stephens)
Monday, June 20—It won't be pulling any rabbits out of a hat, but this week, the moon will be performing some tricks—on your eyes, that is!

If you're curious what all this lunar wizardry is about, just look skyward on Monday night at sunset. You won't believe your eyes when you come face-to-face with what appears to be the biggest full moon you may have ever seen.

No, you don't need glasses. The moon hasn't grown several sizes overnight. The unusual sight is known as a Moon Illusion. Because the moon hangs so low in the sky, it appears abnormally enormous to the human eye.

In fact, because this month's full moon is the lowest-hanging orb in nearly two decades, the Moon Illusion is expected to be especially dramatic. Even Steven Spielberg couldn't match its special effects!

Scientific Tricks

During the summer, the sun and moon are located on opposite sides of the sky. The sun is high; the moon is low. When the moon sits near the horizon as opposed to hanging high in the sky, it gives the illusion that it is larger than normal.

While scientists are still unclear why the Moon Illusion plays tricks on the human brain, some believe nearby objects, such as trees and houses, deceive people into believing that the moon is larger than it actually is.

While scientists continue their debate, one thing is certain. Moonrise is the best time to sneak a peek at this historically-low moon. Moonrise varies from city to city. In New York City it takes place at 7:25 pm. In Chicago, Illinois, it occurs at 7:28 pm, and in Seattle, Washington, it happens at 8:22 pm.

So grab a spot under the stars tonight and enjoy the view!