Magnification of the Sun/Moon Near the Horizon

When light of any kind shines through a dense medium it appears larger, or rather gives a greater glare, at a given distance than when it is seen through a lighter medium. This is more remarkable when the medium holds aqueous particles or vapor in solution, as in a damp or foggy atmosphere. You can see this by standing within a few yards of a street lamp, and noticing the size of the light; on going away to many times the distance, the light upon the atmosphere will appear considerably larger. This phenomenon may be noticed, to a greater or less degree, at all times; but when the air is moist and vapory it is more intense. It is evident that at sunrise, and at sunset, the sun’s light must shine through a greater length of atmospheric air than at mid-day; besides which, the air near the earth is both more dense, and holds more watery particles in solution, than the higher strata through which the sun shines at noonday; and hence the light must be dilated or magnified, as well as modified in color. So the Sun as it sets towards the horizon, from a viewer’s perspective on Earth, simultaneously gets bigger due to the reason given above, AND smaller due to the law of perspective. The net result is what you see.

Posted on January 14, 2019



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