This ‘Starry Night’ optical illusion is incredibly moving

This ‘Starry Night’ optical illusion is incredibly moving

Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” is one of the most recognizable and beloved paintings in the world. It was completed in 1889 and has been part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City since 1941. It’s not for sale, but if it goes up for auction, there’s a chance it could fetch as much as a billion dollars.

Such a precious piece of art might be an odd object for a parlor trick, but trust me when I tell you this one is worth it.

Whether it’s oases in the desert created by heat glare, an elephant with an indefinite number of legs or straight lines that appear crooked, optical illusions can throw our brains for a loop. They can also be a lot of fun, and an optical illusion that turns the “Starry Night” painting into a moving picture is certainly fun.

The illusion, shared by Alex Verbeek on Twitter, involves two steps. First you stare at the center of a rotating spiral image for 20 seconds, then you look at the painting. Staring at the spinning spiral isn’t as easy as it sounds—it makes your eyes sting and your brain hurts a little—but even if you don’t do the full 20 seconds, you can probably get the effect.

Aim to stare at the center of the spiral for at least 10 seconds, then watch “The Starry Night” come to life before your eyes. (By the way, you have to click “play” first. The spirals have to spin.)

Want a larger version of the painting to try it on? Here you go:

Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” (1889)

“Van Gogh’s Starry Night” by Christopher S. Penn is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The effect doesn’t last long, but phew. Our brains are so bizarre.

According to a 2009 study by Japanese researchers, motion in optical illusions is still processed in the brain in the same way as real motion. So don’t be surprised if the moving painting makes you feel a little wobbly if you’re prone to motion sickness.

It’s hard to believe that Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” can be improved, but here we are. Definitely a “moving” experience to share with your friends.



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