The Moon orbits the Earth in a nearly circular ellipse. Simply, this means that the orbit is slightly squashed. At certain times throughout the year the Moon can either be slightly further away from the Earth, or slightly closer to it. When the Moon is closer to the Earth, the Moon appears larger. This event is referred to as a ‘Supermoon’ and it can appear 7% larger and 30% brighter than a normal Full Moon.
Tonight is one of those nights when the Moon is closest to Earth (Tuesday 7th April 2020), and in the words of Nick Drake, one of the most influential English singer-songwriters, a ‘Pink Moon is on its Way’.
Why is it called a Pink Moon? I hear you say, well, it’s not actually pink at all. The name “Pink Moon” comes from the bloom of ground phlox, a small pink flower common in North America, found in deciduous woodlands, stream banks, and shaded rocky slopes mostly in the Appalachian Mountains. In other cultures, the Full Moon in April has also been called the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon and the Fish Moon.
Interestingly, when the Moon is furthest away from Earth, it is called a ‘Minimoon’, but I haven’t come across any famous songs celebrating this fact unfortunately.
The Full Moon in April marks many important festivals and holidays for people around the world.
The date of Easter is the first Sunday (12th) following the Full Moon, which itself follows the spring equinox. Hindus celebrate the birth of Hanuman in India in a festival called Hanuman Jayanti and the Full Moon will also mark the beginning of Jewish Passover.
Looking at the Moon with the naked eye is one of Nature’s most awe-inspiring gifts to us all, but if you want a really outstanding experience, may I suggest you invest in a pair of binoculars, to see the Moon really pop out of the darkness, with detail that will take your breath away!
You don’t need to spend a lot of money. You can buy a good pair of 10×50 binoculars on-line for less than £90. 10×50 is a good magnification as it allows you to see some constellations and asterisms in full view, like the Pleiades for example. The moon however, just looks amazing. You can see impact craters and shadows cast across its surface.
Anyway, if you have clear skies tonight, wear warm clothes, get outside with a flask of hot chocolate and take it all in. You are allowed to howl if you want to.