NASA's Astronomy Picture of The Day (APOD) site is a favorite among space enthusiasts as every day it features an impressive picture accompanied with an explanation written by an astronomer. The video posted on June 4, 2018, turned out to be even more spectacular than expected.
The real video, courtesy of time-lapse photographer Daniel López of El Cielo de Canarias, shows the Moon coming down in all its glory to greet the Earth while tiny humans stand in awe. The view is as scary as it is mesmerizing.
No need to worry, however, as NASA's post features an explanation stating that "these people are not in danger." The optical illusion depicted here is a result of using a telescopic lens on a camera located on a volcano in the Canary Islands called Mount Teide.
The Moon shown is a "Milk Moon," the first full moon in May, captured on the 30th of the summer month. The people seen on the mountain's edges are only actually approximately 16 kilometers away (10 miles) from the telescopic camera.
It is interesting to note that these supposed moon-gazers are actually not watching the overwhelmingly large Moon. In fact, to them, the morning Moon would appear as small as usual.
These people are actually enjoying the sunrise happening behind the photographer since, during the full Moon, the Sun always sets on the opposite side of the sky. Furthermore, it is not actually the Moon that is moving but the Earth, whose spin results in the Moon looking like it is disappearing behind our planet.
True speed witnessed
Although many elements of this video were illusions, the speed reflected was not. This shot is not a time-lapse which means the rate of movements of these celestial objects was accurate in real time.
Optical illusions that cause the Moon to appear larger near the horizon have been observed since ancient times and are referred to as the Moon illusion. The explanation for this phenomenon, perceived by the likes of Aristotle and Leonardo da Vince, is still debated to this day.
A 1989 book called The Moon Illusion featured 24 chapters written by various psychological theorists reaching different conclusions and providing commentaries on the works of others with no conclusive reasons produced. In 2002, a book called The Mystery of the Moon Illusion saw two leading psychologists review the countless different explanations submitted throughout the years.
The book states, it is the "most comprehensive account of this puzzle so far" yet its authors still conclude that "no single theory has emerged victorious." We may never know what is responsible for the phenomenon witnessed in NASA's mindblowing video but that will not stop us from enjoying it nonetheless.