North Pole Sunset
Netlore Archive: Circulating via forwarded email, an image purportedly snapped at the North Pole in which the crescent moon appears to be many times larger than the setting sun.
Description: Viral image
Circulating since: Feb. 2006
Status: Fake (see details below)
Email contributed by "Smiles," Feb. 11, 2006:
Subject: Amazing Photo
A scene you will probably never get to see in person. This is the sunset at the North Pole with the moon at its closest point. An amazing photo and not one easily duplicated.
Image source: unknown, circulating via email
Analysis: To paraphrase the caption above, this is very definitely a scene you will never get to see in person not on planet earth, anyway because it's physically impossible for the moon to appear so much larger than the sun when they are seen together with the naked eye. Why? Because, given their relative distances from the earth, the moon and the sun subtend the same angle in the sky, which is a fancy astrophysical way of saying that from our earthly vantage point they should always appear to be of equal size.
Granted, there is a famous optical illusion by virtue of which either heavenly body may seem somewhat larger than usual when it appears close to the horizon, but that is obviously not the explanation for the disparity seen here. We can only conclude that this is a computer-generated image or photo-realistic painting of an imaginary landscape, not an actual photograph.
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Sources and further reading:
The Moon Illusion
By physicist Donald Simanek
Why Does the Moon Appear Bigger Near the Horizon?
The Straight Dope, 25 January 1985
How Do We Measure the Size of the Moon and Sun?
Curious About Astronomy (Cornell University)
Sunset at the North Pole
Urban Legends Reference Pages, 28 March 2006
Last updated: 10/03/11