I found this picture and I am really wondering if it is possible for the moon to get as close to the earth as this picture shows?

( Super moon above Rio De Janeiro)

Super moon above Rio De Janeiro

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ That's a fairly well documented fake. snopes.com/photos/space/supermoon.asp If you like, I could give an answer on how large the moon can get in the sky, but it's easily googled and well under 1 degree of angle in the sky. You'd need about 300 moons at it's largest, end to end to reach across the sky. $\endgroup$
    – userLTK
    Jul 24, 2016 at 18:30

2 Answers 2


I don't know whether this picture is a fake, but you could get this sort of image without cheating, if it were taken a long way away from Rio, and the magnification cranked up. In other words, get far enough away from Rio that its angular diameter is about 1 minute, and take the picture from there.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ This particular picture is quite famous and is a documented fake, but you're correct that with a high magnification photo and the right distance that a photo somewhat like this could be achieved. The problem is, with this photo you can see the buildings diminish in size by distance quite measurably. For this kind of photo to work, the closer buildings and the further away buildings would need to be about the same size. The scale is wrong in this picture. $\endgroup$
    – userLTK
    Jul 24, 2016 at 20:39
  • $\begingroup$ Good point. I was not aware that this was a well known fake. $\endgroup$
    – Dr Chuck
    Jul 24, 2016 at 21:19
  • $\begingroup$ My calling it quite famous is probably an overstatement, but it's been passed round enough that it was mentioned on Snopes and other websites that list fake photographs. snopes.com/photos/space/supermoon.asp I just googled "moon over Rio, fake or real" and the exact picture showed up. $\endgroup$
    – userLTK
    Jul 24, 2016 at 21:56
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Clouds going behind the moon? No, this photo could never be reproduced in any of the ways that make it an especially notable image. $\endgroup$ Jul 27, 2016 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ I've just added a supporting answer. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 21, 2019 at 13:10

I like @DrChuck's answer and this Astronomy Picture of the Day shows how this has some plausibility:

...but you could get this sort of image without cheating, if it were taken a long way away... and the magnification cranked up.

Screen shot from YouTube video Moon Setting Behind Teide Volcano

Astronomy Picture of the Day; 2018 June 4

From Astronomy Picture of the Day; 2018 June 4

Moon Setting Behind Teide Volcano Video Credit & Copyright: Daniel López (El Cielo de Canarias); Music: Piano della Moon (Dan Silva) Explanation: These people are not in danger. What is coming down from the left is just the Moon, far in the distance. Luna appears so large here because she is being photographed through a telescopic lens. What is moving is mostly the Earth, whose spin causes the Moon to slowly disappear behind Mount Teide, a volcano in the Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa. The people pictured are 16 kilometers away and many are facing the camera because they are watching the Sun rise behind the photographer. It is not a coincidence that a full moon rises just when the Sun sets because the Sun is always on the opposite side of the sky from a full moon. The featured video was made last week during the full Milk Moon. The video is not time-lapse -- this was really how fast the Moon was setting.

Cropped Astronomy Picture of the Day; 2018 June 4 Mount Teide, a volcano in the Canary Islands

Astronomy Picture of the Day; 2018 June 4 Mount Teide, a volcano in the Canary Islands

update: Following a bit of incredulity in comments, I'll mention that I don't think the image really is real, because it involved photography near the horizon where the air gets very thick, strongly attenuating of shorter wavelengths (blues) and wavy due to refraction and turbulence. The Image above shows the moon to be fuzzier than the people and the edges are a little ragged, *unlike the image in the question which looks quite sharp right down to the horizon.

Here's a few more real images for comparison, from

enter image description here

above: The moon sets over the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston on the early morning of March 20, 2019. The third supermoon of 2019 on Wednesday isn't just special because it's the last supermoon of the year. It's also the first supermoon in nearly 20 years to fall near the spring equinox. The super worm equinox moon, as it's known, follows Januarys super blood wolf moon and Februarys super snow moon. This supermoon will hit its peak at 9:43 p.m. Wednesday, almost four hours after the spring equinox officially hits. (Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

enter image description here

above: A lookout tower, left, and the broadcast tower of Antenna Hungaria at the top of Karancs mountain are backdropped by the rising moon as seen from the vicinity of Karancskeszi village, 80 miles northeast of Budapest, Hungary, Wednesday, March 20, 2019. (Peter Komka/MTI via AP)

  • $\begingroup$ Point made, but I don't think you could use this sort of zoom and get a shot from overhead a city. $\endgroup$
    – Octopus
    Mar 22, 2019 at 5:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Octopus I'm not sure if saying that there is "some plausibility" is equivalent to making a "point". Anyway, I suppose this angle would be accessible from a hot air balloon or drone or aircraft, and image stabilization now exists within long focal-length lenses, but I would not advocate that that's what's happened here. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 22, 2019 at 5:45
  • $\begingroup$ I present a challenge. Somebody produce a real picture like the OP. $\endgroup$
    – Octopus
    Mar 22, 2019 at 5:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Octopus is this an Astrophotography X-prize? How much are you offering to the winner? ;-) $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 22, 2019 at 5:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ They'll be famous when they're picture goes viral. $\endgroup$
    – Octopus
    Mar 22, 2019 at 5:53

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .