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Wildfires are turning the sun and moon red

Amateur astronomer and astrophotographer Bill Funcheon captured this photo of the red moon over New Jersey on July 20, 2021.  (Image credit: Bill Funcheon)

Have you looked up this week to see a bright red moon or sun? Wildfires in the western U.S. are impacting the sky's colors thousands of miles away. 

People from across the United States have flocked to social media this week to note the strange colors in both the daytime and nighttime skies, with the sun and moon turning a brilliant, blood red and skies grayed with haze. While the sky can appear different colors for a number of reasons, the current redness is caused by the ongoing Bootleg wildfire in Oregon. 

Even as far away as New York City, thousands of miles from Oregon, the thick smoke from this extreme wildfire, which began on July 6 and has already burned 364,000 acres, according to the BBC, is clouding the skies. 

Related: The smoke from wildfires in Oregon and beyond is covering vast areas of US, satellites show

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Now, if you've seen the sun or moon looking red, it's not that these objects have actually turned color. Rather, particles in Earth's atmosphere that lies between us and the sun and moon can affect how they appear by affecting the photons of light.

Email Chelsea Gohd at cgohd@space.com or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Chelsea Gohd
Senior Writer

Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined Space.com in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.