The biggest, brightest and best supermoon of this year, also called the full pink moon will appear in the night sky on the 7th or 8th of April 2020, depending on where you are located. However, the moon can be sighted just as marvelous on the neighboring days i.e. today, tomorrow and the day after. Hence you can see the moon over the next three nights in all her majestic glory and splendor.
Now with this worldwide lockdown and isolation due to the coronavirus COVID-19, take some time out to contemplate the magical moon and bathe in her silvery essence. Go to your roof top, terrace, garden, balcony, backyard, patio, nearby park, the street outside, or just peek through your window to reminisce her magnificence.
The best time to watch the moon is when it is rising, early evening as it appears even bigger against the city backdrop, low in the sky. Find out the local time of moonrise in your city so you don’t miss out on this spectacular view. By the way, a new moon can also be a supermoon but we can’t see it, hence only super full moons are famous. Supermoons tend to cluster, so it isn’t unusual for one supermoon to be succeeded by another. Next month’s full moon will also be a supermoon on 7 May, and last month also had a supermoon on 9 March, that’s three in a row this year! But none of them was or will be as big and bright as this month’s supermoon. The average distance between the earth and the moon is about 384,000 kilometers, but this year’s April pink moon will be much closer to earth, around 357,000 kilometers.
What is a supermoon?
Supermoons occur a few times annually when the moon is closest to the earth on its orbit, hence it appears larger in the sky than its usual size, about 14% bigger and 30% brighter to be precise, being at or within 90% of its perigee. When the moon is closest to us, it subtends its largest apparent diameter as seen from earth.
The moon revolves around the earth in an elliptical orbit every 29.53 days, hence it reaches its perigee and apogee about once every month. As it is not a circular orbit, there will always be a closest and a farthest point from the earth.
- Perigee: the point in the moon’s orbit when it is closest to the earth
- Apogee: the point in the moon’s orbit when it is farthest from the earth
When a perigee coincides with a full moon or new moon, it is called a perigee syzygy or more commonly a supermoon. The opposite phenomenon, an apogee syzygy full moon or new moon is called a micromoon.
A syzygy is an astronomical term for three or more celestial bodies lining up. When the sun, earth and moon form a syzygy, we see a full or new moon depending on whether the moon is between the sun and earth (full moon) or the earth is between the sun and moon (new moon).
As a super full moon is closer to earth than a normal full moon, it appears 7% larger. Although that isn’t much, still it is a difference nevertheless. Hence the overall difference in viewing size between a full moon at perigee and a full moon at apogee can be upto 14% which is a significant difference. Astronomers refer to supermoons as a perigean full moon.
The ‘supermoon’ is not an official astronomical term however. It was coined in 1979 by Astrologer Richard Nolle, and defined as a full moon or new moon which refers to the moon being at or within 90% of its closest approach to earth in a given orbit, although we tend to only pay attention to the super full moon and not the super new moon, because a full moon is more interesting to watch and contemplate.
Pink moon of April
Now you must be wondering, “will I actually get to see a pink colored moon?” No no, that’s not at all the case. The April pink moon is essentially nicknamed after the shrub-like wild phlox that covers the soil in early spring with moss pink flowers in eastern United States. The April full moon is also touted to be the sprouting grass moon, the egg moon, and the fish moon.
So the moon will not be pink but a pale orange. While rising and low in the sky, it is closer to the horizon hence appears orange or golden as it is being sighted through a greater thickness of the earth’s atmosphere. The earth’s oxygen and nitrogen rich atmosphere filters out the bluer wavelengths of white moonlight when the moon is closest to the horizon. This filtering process also called light refraction, results in more of the red component of moonlight reaching our eyes hence it appears more reddish or orangish. The moon can only appear real pink or more of a copper color during a blood moon on a total lunar eclipse.
Spiritually the pink moon symbolizes rebirth or renaissance, occurring in all life forms owing to new life the spring season brings upon the planet.
So tonight as you look up to the heavens to contemplate the moon’s essence, think pink!
moon o’ magic moon
tonite grant me a boon
shine your light bright
and bring to my sight
where my treasure is concealed
there my destiny is revealed
P.S. A psychic had once told me, “eres hija de la luna” (you are daughter of the moon). That explains my fascination for the magical moon. No wonder, I’ve always felt a special connection with the moon. Whenever I was lost or confused on my life path, I have sought the moon’s guidance, my spiritual mother.
When to study the moon?
The best time to study the moon and observe the innumerable craters on its surface, evidence of billions of years of meteorite bombardment, is not on a full moon night as the moonlight can be too bright, but actually a few days before or after the full moon, when the light is just perfect to view through binoculars.
What is the moon illusion?
The moon always appears biggest closer to the horizon, during moonrise and moonset, as our minds can exaggerate the size of objects near the skyline. So if you wish to truly behold a massive moon tonight, make sure you catch it while it is rising or setting. In fact, you can watch the moon at its largest every night if you catch it in the horizon while it rises or sets.
Why do we see the moon in the day sometimes?
The moon is visible in daylight almost every day as it is above the horizon for about 12 hours, so some portions of that 12-hour slot can be viewed in the day. However, its brightness is so much less than the sun, so you can see a vague outline in the day. The only times you may not be able to see the moon in the day is when there’s a new moon as it is too close to the sun’s brightness hence not visible, or during a full moon when the moon rises at sunset and sets at sunrise.
What are the names of full moons in each month?
- January: Wolf moon
- February: Snow moon
- March: Worm moon
- April: Pink moon
- May: Flower moon
- June: Strawberry moon
- July: Buck moon
- August: Sturgeon moon
- September: Corn moon
- October: Hunter’s moon
- November: Beaver moon
- December: Cold moon
What are some other moon terms?
- Blood moon: a blood moon occurs during a total lunar eclipse. It is called a blood moon because the moon appears reddish or with a copper tinge. To learn more, read: blood moon on the horizon.
- Blue moon: A blue moon is when two full moons occur in a single month, where the second full moon is called a blue moon. Ever heard of the phrase, once in a blue moon…? Because blue moons are indeed rare! To learn more, read: once in a blue moon.
What are some other astronomical events in 2020?
According to Patrick Young, a professor at Arizona State University’s School of earth and Space exploration, there are other astronomical events this year to watch out for (Source: Azcentral.com).
- Lyrids Meteor Shower in April
- Planets Jupiter, Saturn & Mars cluster with the Moon in July
- Perseids Meteor shower in August
- Orinoids meteor shower in October
- Geminids Meteor shower in December
- The great conjunction in December: Jupiter & Saturn will appear to be a single bright star; this rare phenomenon happens only once in 20 to 30 years