Astronomy Essentials

Why does the moon seem to follow me when I’m in a car?

Bright white moon with clear and visible features, and clouds behind it.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Fausto Lubatti in Melegnano, Lombardy, Italy, captured the moon on July 3, 2023. When you’re traveling in a car, does it seem like the moon is following you? See why below.

Why does the moon seem to follow me?

Have you noticed, especially when you’re riding in a car, that the moon seems to follow you? The reason is that the moon is so distant compared to earthly objects around you. You see buildings and people and farm fields whiz by, but you never outpace the moon. It appears to follow along on your journey.

So imagine you’re driving on a straight road with the moon in front of you. You don’t see the moon pass from the front windows, to the side, and then to the back, as you would a house or tree. Likewise, if the moon is behind you, it seems to stay put while objects in your earthly landscape whiz by.

Also – when we’re moving along in a car – our brains automatically compare the distant moon and stars to that cluttered foreground sweeping past. Meanwhile, because the moon and stars are so far away, they seem to stay in one spot. And it can seem as if these objects in space are moving right along with you.

Or think of it in terms of angles. The distance between you and the moon is about a quarter million miles. Any distance you travel by car on Earth is very small in comparison. So – when you’re moving in a car – from whichever angle we view the moon, it seems to remain in the same place … following you!

This phenomenon, by the way – not just with the moon, but with other bright sky objects such as Venus – is responsible for many UFO sightings around the world.

Join our community of passionate astronomy enthusiasts and help us continue to bring you the latest astronomy news and insights. Your donation makes it all possible.

Explaining it to kids

Here’s a video for kids explaining why the moon seems to follow them:

For a page of kids’ writings about the moon following them, click here.

For a technical explanation explaining why the moon seems to follow you, click here.

Bottom line: If you’ve noticed that, when you’re in a moving car, the moon seems to follow you, it’s because the moon is so distant relative to earthly objects.

April 19, 2024
Astronomy Essentials

Like what you read?
Subscribe and receive daily news delivered to your inbox.

Your email address will only be used for EarthSky content. Privacy Policy
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

More from 

Deborah Byrd

View All