The next full moon on Monday, April 26 will be the first of just a few so-called super moons in 2021. And because it’s April, this full moon is also nicknamed the “pink moon.”
So get ready for the opportunity to check out a super pink moon, or maybe a pink super moon, later this month.
Whatever the chosen moniker, this full moon is not quite as cool as those adjectives imply (but it is definitely still cool and worth seeking out).
The thing is, the pink moon is not necessarily pink. In fact, it probably won’t be pink at all. The hue of the moon typically depends on atmospheric conditions where ever you’re viewing it from.
Things like clouds, dust, haze, smoke or pollution are what actually cause the moon to appear different colors by scattering much of the blue light shining on our natural satellite, leaving it with a more reddish tone.
So a pink moon is usually not pink. However, the classic song “Pink Moon” by the late Nick Drake is usually great to play when you venture outside in April to check out an actual (not) pink moon.
The apparent origin of the nickname has to do with the pink phlox flower, which sometimes blooms in April. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, April’s full moon was traditionally referred to as a pink moon by Native Americans and some Europeans in centuries past.
While the pink part of this month’s full moon is effectively meaningless from a scientific point of view the term super moon is the more popular way of referring to an astronomical event known to scientists as perigee-syzygy.
It’s easy to understand why super moon is a more popular phrase to describe the confluence of two events: perigee, when the moon is at its closest to earth along its orbit of our planet, and syzygy, when the earth, moon and sun are aligned.
Syzygy happens both when there is a full moon and a new moon, but we don’t see a new moon because that’s when the sun is shining on the half of the moon facing away from us.
Ok, so what makes this perigee-syzygy moon super? Quite simply, being a bit closer to Earth than other full moons (the perigee part, remember) will make it appear a bit larger, particularly when it is viewed near the horizon.
According to NASA, you can expect a super moon to appear up to 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than the smallest full moon. So, it’s not exactly mind-blowing, but not insignificant either.
If you can find yourself a place with a nice open view of the eastern horizon just after sunset – preferably with a field of newly bloomed pink phlox in front – it will definitely be worth taking a few moments to watch the super pink moon rise.
If you can’t get outside, the Virtual Telescope Project based in Rome will be holding an online watch party. Mark your calendar for the evening of April 26 either way and share your best pink super moon or super pink moon photos with me on Twitter @EricCMack.