Stay up and see the Pink Moon

Though not actually pink, tonight's full moon is the first supermoon of 2021
pink moon moss pink What does this flower have to do with tonight's full moon? (Photo 110265539 © - Dreamstime.com)


Do you get to stay up late? Not regularly maybe, but on special occasions ... perhaps? On 'super' occasions ... maybe?

We're certanly not trying to rearrange anyone's nighttime schedules over here. But if you were thinking of asking for a late pass, there is an outdoor event taking place tonight—Monday, April 26—that is worth considering.

Getting to see the Pink Moon.

At about 11:30pm EDT/ 8:30pm PDT, this special full moon—a supermoon, in fact—will reach peak illumination, or its brightest point. So depending on where you live, you may not even need to stay up late to see this incredible sight.

But will it really be pink? Let's talk about that!

Not pink, but still pretty

Embed from Getty Images

Last year's Pink Moon, which was also a supermoon, arrived on April 8, 2020. (Getty Embed)

So, no. It will not actually be pink in colour.

The name comes from the early spring bloom of a certain flower: the Phlox subulata plant, also known as 'moss pink'. Because this striking flower appeared in April across much of eastern North America, that month's full moon was known as the 'Pink Moon'.

But even without a light pink hue, tonight's moon is worth seeing. It's a supermoon!

It's bird, it's plane, it's ...

Moon apogee vs perigee

This image compares two full moons. The one on the left is a micromoon, or one at the apogee. The right one is a supermoon, or a full moon that happens at the perigee. (NASA)

How does a moon get to be a supermoon? Simple. It comes closer to Earth.

Like nearly all moons and planets out there, the Moon's orbit around Earth is not a perfect circle. It is elliptical, meaning it's a little more oval than circle. And over the path of its orbit, it has a farthest point—or apogee—and a nearest point—or perigee. A supermoon occurs when a full moon happens at the same time as the Moon hits its perigee.

In other words, the Moon is full and as close as it can get to us.

Down here on Earth, this makes the Moon appear both bigger and brighter—about 7 percent larger and 15 percent brighter than the average full moon. In other words, as long as the skies stay clear it should be quite a sight tonight! So take a nap, bundle up, and enjoy the show, skywatchers!


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