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Why isn't the moon yellow?


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The sun looks pretty yellow most of the time. The moon shines by reflected sunlight, so why does it look white? It is obviously bright enough for color vision to work.

The sun is apparently pure white when seen from space, so does that mean the moon looks bluish in space?

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You're right, sunlight is white - that's why the Moon isn't yellow. And in fact the Moon has very low reflectivity - it's about as black as charcoal.

John Herschel looked at the rising full moon just above a wall as the sun was setting behind him - he saw it as dark grey. This made him realise the effect of contrast in our perception of the moon, and colour in general.

Edited by acey
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To add, we see the sun as yellow due to the absorption & scattering of blue portion of the light spectrum by our atmosphere....some of the photons are absorbed and others scattered

U.

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Isn't Eris also surprisingly reflective? First estimates of its size were based on an albedo similar to Pluto but it turned out to be so reflective its was downsized to a few percent bigger (in volume) than Pluto.

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  • 1 year later...

From what I understand, it is NOT because the moon's surface colors the light as was previously posted. The moon's reflected light is pretty close to white.

The reason is that, for both the sun an moon, they look red or orange when very close to the horizon, yellow when low on the horizon, and white when high above the horizon. We just don't look at the sun too closely when it's high and bright (good thing too) and so always think of the sun as yellow. The moon we look at plenty when it's high, and think of it as always white.

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Am I the only person that actually sees the sun as being white? ...

Yes, I asked everyone else and you are the only one who sees it white. Some saw polka dots, some saw green, black or pink but only you for white :)

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I tried to find a lunar spectrum on the net and failed, which I found surprizing. Surely there must be some selective absorption? I find it hard to believe that a literally unmodified solar spectrum is reflected by the moon. But I'm open to persuasion.

Olly

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I tried to find a lunar spectrum on the net and failed, which I found surprizing. Surely there must be some selective absorption? I find it hard to believe that a literally unmodified solar spectrum is reflected by the moon. But I'm open to persuasion.

Olly

We can see surface features so of course there is absorption. it's not going to be peferctly white.

So whats your definition of "white light" looks grey to me in a lot of places.

there is no way in hell its an unmodifed solar spectrum as its not going to reflect perfectly. I assume the brightness will do something to warp our perception?

Edited by ncjunk
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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, it's more gray-ish. The only reason it appears white to us on Earth is because when the sun is behind us, the reflection from the sun lights the moon up. But what makes it GRAY is the rocks & dust found on the moon. The moon is like one giant asteroid floating around Earth, made completely of rocks. There are spots called maria which make some parts of the moon look darker than others

:grin:.

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