By the light of the super full moon

This photo was taken last March 19 in Cordoba, Spain. Photographer Paco Bellido captured a particularly special full moon—it appeared larger than any full moon had in 20 years. NASA explains:

Full Moons vary in size because of the oval shape of the Moon's orbit. It is an ellipse with one side (perigee) about 50,000 km closer to Earth than the other (apogee). Nearby perigee moons are about 14% bigger and 30% brighter than lesser moons that occur on the apogee side of the Moon's orbit. The full Moon of March 19th occurs less than one hour away from perigee--a near-perfect coincidence1 that happens only 18 years or so.

Via Catherine Laplace-Builhe


  1. Q: Why does the moon look bigger near the horizon that it does when it is overhead in the sky?

    The answer may surprise you. No fair googling.

    1. I heard Neil Degrasse Tyson say that the moon only appears larger at the horizon because your brain is not used to seeing it in context with ground objects (buildings, trees, etc.).  According to him, if you turn your back to the moon and bend over – looking at it upside down through your legs – it will make the ground objects unfamiliar enough to your brain that the moon will appear at the size you are more accustomed to seeing it.

      If I’m correct, do I win a stuffed animal or something?

      1. Wow – I was LITERALLY typing the answer when your post showed up.

        I don’t know about the through your legs trick, but yes, it is just your brain screwing with you.

        When there is the horizon your brain perceives it large than when it is in open space and with nothing to compare it to.

        You can take your thumb (or another finger if your thumbs are too fat) and holding it at arms length cover the moon up when it is low in the sky. Then do the same thing when it is high in the sky and you will see it is the same size. You can use a ruler as well.

        If you introduce me to your brother Tom, I will get you a case of gold star stickers.

  2. While I don’t disagree with the science, the moon certainly didn’t look this big to the naked eye. To get a shot like this requires a long lens and the photographer was probably quite a distance from the castle, like on the other side of a harbor or the like.

  3. A beautiful piece of photography, as well as astronomy.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m suddenly seized with the urge to play Castlevania.

  4. “Photographer Paco Bellido captured a particularly special full moon—” and then enlarged it in photoshop and slapped on a yellow color layer.   Personally, I would have straightened the castle as well.  

    1. Yeah, I doubt he Photoshopped it.  Like Max Pinton said above, he would just have needed to use a long lens, and be some distance from the castle.  Easy to envision.  With a wider lens, from where he was standing, the moon would appear to be the same size relative to the castle, yet both would appear tinier within the exposed image… farther away, y’know.

      Now, the exposure, however… if the moon were higher in the sky, it would have been so bright that there’s no way you’d make out the foreground detail of the castle at the same time.  But since the moon was so near the horizon, its light is traveling through a whole lot more atmosphere at an oblique angle to the surface of the Earth, thus dimming its apparent albedo to the point that its light doesn’t overwhelm that of the terrestrial architecture.  So that’s why it looks so yellow.

      I dunno, maybe he manipulated the image a bit, but I don’t believe he needed to do so as much as you think he did.

  5. NASA’s explanation doesn’t tell the whole story.

    The fact is, the moon ALWAYS looks larger when it sits near the horizon. It is a well-known optical illusion, an happens with any visible celestial body:

    Elliptical orbits and such have a much smaller effect on your perception of the moon’s size than tricks your brain plays.

  6. This photograph is not possible.  The light from the moon is much straighter and longer than light on Earth because of the distance.  This is why when you take a photograph, the moon looks SMALLER.  How many times have you taken a picture of the moon and have been disappointed?  This is imho is fantasy.

  7. Here’s the photographer’s blog with some more pictures: . He’s even got a graphic showing the difference between the maximum and minimum apparent size of the moon, which as you’ll notice isn’t that large. It’s just a zoomed in picture – but very nicely executed (he had to calculate where to position himself to get the moonrise behind the castle).

  8. That’s friggin nuts.  I’ve seen big moons but never Castlevania-big.

    Biggest one I’ve seen was… on yo momma! (snap)

  9. I used PS to adjust levels on the Moon, but the image hasn’t been photoshoped. It’s not a fake. I calculated the distance to locate my 80 mm refracting telescope with a Canon EOS 550D attached to catch the castle and the Moon with almost the same angular diameter. I placed the telescope about 6 km from the castle. The trick is only on the brain, the Moon illusion is well know by psychologists and astronomers alike, the brain compares distances between usual objects…but it’s not used to compare distances as seen from a scope :-)

  10. The so-called “supermoon” last March was not the largest in 20 years.  It was the largest in two and a half years:  the full moon of December 2008 was about 10 km closer.

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