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Mountain Shadows Are Nature's Coolest Optical Illusion

05/06/2015 06:40 pm ET | Updated May 06, 2015

Call it a view of moonrise kingdom.

The astronomers who run NASA's beautiful Astronomy Photo Of The Day blog posted a haunting image this week of the moon rising through the immense shadow of Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano.

mauna kea moonrise

To reiterate: That's not a mountain in the background. It's the mountain's shadow, and it's huge.

The sun set behind the camera, thereby casting the long shadow. Thanks to basic geometry, the shadow shows a pointed top, no matter the shape of the mountain's summit.

This geometric phenomenon happens all over the world, and while the sight is best seen IRL on a summit, the beautiful photos below are also incredible:

paul doherty

Mount Hood, Oregon, USA

Mount Fuji, Japan.

mountain shadow

Volcán Tajamulco, Guatemala.

mountain shadow

Mount Rinjani, Lombok, Indonesia.

greece shadow

Hagios Elias, Taíyetos Mountains, Greece.

mount rainier shadow

Mount Rainier, Washington, USA.

Shadow of Mt. Rainier

Mount Rainier, Washington, USA.

A rather unique phenomenon in the sky. On top of Segla, 600 meters above sea level, Northern Norway.

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