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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.

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Chelsea Gohd

Chelsea Gohd joined as an intern in the summer of 2018 and returned as a Staff Writer in 2019. After receiving a B.S. in Public Health, she worked as a science communicator at the American Museum of Natural History and even wrote an installation for the museum's permanent Hall of Meteorites. Chelsea has written for publications including Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine, Live Science, All That is Interesting, AMNH Microbe Mondays blog, The Daily Targum and Roaring Earth. When not writing, reading or following the latest space and science discoveries, Chelsea is writing music and performing as her alter ego Foxanne (@foxannemusic). You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd.