The Moon is in synchronous rotation: it rotates about its axis in about the same time it takes to orbit the Earth. This results in it nearly always keeping the same face turned towards the Earth. The Moon used to rotate at a faster rate, but early in its history, its rotation slowed and became tidally locked in this orientation as a result of frictional effects associated with tidal deformations caused by the Earth. The side of the Moon that faces Earth is called the near side, and the opposite side the far side. The far side is often called the "dark side", but in fact, it is illuminated as often as the near side: once per lunar day, during the new moon phase we observe on Earth when the near side is dark. The Moon has an exceptionally low albedo, giving it a similar reflectance to coal. Despite this, it is the second brightest object in the sky after the Sun.[i] This is partly due to the brightness enhancement of the opposition effect; at quarter phase, the Moon is only one-tenth as bright, rather than half as bright, as at full moon. Additionally, colour constancy in the visual system recalibrates the relations between the colours of an object and its surroundings, and since the surrounding sky is comparatively dark, the sunlit Moon is perceived as a bright object. The edges of the full moon seem as bright as the centre, with no limb darkening, due to the reflective properties of lunar soil, which reflects more light back towards the Sun than in other directions. The Moon does appear larger when close to the horizon, but this is a purely psychological effect, known as the Moon illusion, first described in the 7th century BC. The full moon subtends an arc of about 0.52∞ (on average) in the sky, roughly the same apparent size as the Sun (see eclipses).The highest altitude of the Moon in the sky varies: while it has near
y the same limit as the Sun, it alters with the lunar phase and with the season of the year, with the full moon highest during winter. The 18.6-year nodes cycle also has an influence: when the ascending node of the lunar orbit is in the vernal equinox, the lunar declination can go as far as 28∞ each month. This means the Moon can go overhead at latitudes up to 28∞ from the equator, instead of only 18∞. The orientation of the Moon's crescent also depends on the latitude of the observation site: close to the equator, an observer can see a smile-shaped crescent Moon. The distance between the Moon and the Earth varies from around 356,400 km to 406,700 km at the extreme perigees (closest) and apogees (farthest). On 19 March 2011, it was closer to the Earth while at full phase than it has been since 1993. Reported as a "super moon", this closest point coincides within an hour of a full moon, and it thus appeared 30 percent brighter, and 14 percent larger than when at its greatest distance. There has been historical controversy over whether features on the Moon's surface change over time. Today, many of these claims are thought to be illusory, resulting from observation under different lighting conditions, poor astronomical seeing, or inadequate drawings. However, outgassing does occasionally occur, and could be responsible for a minor percentage of the reported lunar transient phenomena. Recently, it has been suggested that a roughly 3 km diameter region of the lunar surface was modified by a gas release event about a million years ago. The Moon's appearance, like that of the Sun, can be affected by Earth's atmosphere: common effects are a 22∞ halo ring formed when the Moon's light is refracted through the ice crystals of high cirrostratus cloud, and smaller coronal rings when the Moon is seen through thin clouds.