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'Pink moon' rises this Friday

  • Published at 05:12 pm April 18th, 2019
Full moon
A full moon rises through clouds near Encinitas, California, US, March 20, 2019 Reuters

The full moon occurs when the satellite is exactly on the opposite side of the earth from the sun

The full moon of April, called the pink moon, will occur the morning of April 19 at 1112 GMT. The moon will be three days past perigee, the point in its orbit where the natural satellite is nearest to Earth, so it will almost be a "super moon," appearing larger than average. 

Super moons happen when the full moon coincides with perigee, but the difference in size even for these "super" satellites is usually too small for any but the most careful observers to notice, reports Space.com.

For observers on the US east coast, the pink moon will rise at about 8pm local time on April 19 and set at around 7am the next morning, according to the US naval observatory. The moon will be in the constellation Virgo. The sun will rise about an hour before moonset on April 20, so for about an hour, the nearly full moon and the sun will both appear in the sky.

The full moon occurs when the satellite is exactly on the opposite side of the earth from the sun. The moon shines by reflecting the sun's light, unless its orbit carries it within the shadow of the earth, resulting in a lunar eclipse. That won't happen in April; the next lunar eclipse, in which the earth's shadow partially covers the moon, will be July 16-17. That partial lunar eclipse won't be visible from North America, but sky watchers in South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia will see it, according to Nasa's Goddard space flight centre. 

Through binoculars or a small telescope, the full moon appears very bright, so much so that you may not be able to see through the glare without special moon filters. Unlike observing the sun [which one should never do through a telescope without proper eye protection,] observing the full moon poses no danger to one's eyesight. 

However, details on the full moon's surface can be more difficult to see than when the moon is at crescent or quarter phases. The reason is lack of contrast; a full moon means we are seeing the surface at lunar noon, when there are no shadows toward the centre of the disk or even toward the edges. [If one were standing on the centre of the moon's face, the sun would be directly overhead.] Moon filters can make some features stand out, or you can simply wait a few days after the full moon or observe a few days before it, when shadows make spotting the surface topography easier.

The pink moon isn't really pink

Despite its moniker, the pink moon isn't actually pink. The name "pink moon" comes from the bloom of ground phlox, a pink flower common in North America, according to The Old Farmer's Almanac. It has also been called the sprouting grass moon, the egg moon and the fish moon.

For the Jewish people, April 20 marks the beginning of the holiday of Passover [the 15th day of the lunar month of Nisan], which celebrates the escape from Egypt and has been popularized by films such as "The ten commandments" and Disney's "The prince of Egypt."