As a STEM parent, I tend to seek out any and every science-oriented opportunity that remotely stands a chance of crossing my family's path in a given month. I read, I listen, I seek and explore--and I have done this for many years. For the past few weeks, social media has been abuzz with April 11, 2017's Pink Moon. Photos seem to show a glorious, pink-colored, full moon in all of it's glory. But--the recovering scientist in me asked...Pink? How? Hmm. What are a few things that you should know about the Pink Moon this April before you keep the kiddos up past their bedtimes or wake them up super-early?
The Pink Moon will Probably Not Appear Pink. But. But? The pictures online show a vivid, pink-tinted moon, right? Well. We may be assuming from our quick, social media surfing that the "Pink Moon" is...pink...but, the odds are that it's just going to be a "plain old, same-as-every-night- colored" moon--except that it will be at it's largest, fullest state for the month of April. The "Pink Moon" name comes from the fact that this full moon appears in April...and appears during the time when the pink, wild, ground phlox flower is generally in widespread bloom. It was actually named for a common, April flower color...not the moon's color.
The Pink Moon has Other Names Too. This not-really-pink-colored-moon has also been called the Full Sprouting Grass Moon, the Full Fish Moon and the Egg Moon. It won't look like an egg or a fish either--but, has seasonal significance. Moons have taken on various nicknames to predict and identify them throughout time. This one is just most commonly identified as the full moon that shines down on pink Phlox.
When can you Best View the Pink Moon? We are able to view this moon in full phase — at a time when the sun and the moon are on exact opposite points of the Earth simultaneously--and that is happening at varying dates/times depending on our location in the world. In the US, we should have our best views of this full moon on April 11--but, other parts of the world may see it today, on April 10, or even April 12.
What's Special About this Pink Moon? This year's Pink Moon coincides with 2017's first lunar eclipse. This eclipse will be visible for those living in eastern Europe, Africa, central Asia and
western Australia. This lunar eclipse is a partial eclipse that will last only about 27 minutes--and will be at it's best and fullest at 4:07 p.m. Eastern Time--so the U.S. will not be able to experience this wonder this year.
Your Family Can Learn A Lot with April's Pink Moon. As parents, we can teach SO much from April's Pink Moon--in science, history, and life!
The Internet Exaggerates. First of all--The Pink Moon offers a great opportunity to teach kids that everything and every photo on the internet it not necessarily 100% real or...always portraying a person, place or thing in the most accurate manner. Unless the atmosphere/sunrise/sunset/or some other filter comes into play--the moon that we may expect on April 11, 2017, will not be pink....and it will not look like most of online, social media photos encouraging us to watch this April's pink moon. This led my family to discuss "free" stock photos and online photography in general--and media hype of "average" occurrences.
We can Learn about the History and the Significance of our Monthly Full Moon Names. Our moon phases were used as the basis of our calendar--and many monthly moons carry names with significance to events, or seasonal happenings during their fullest phases. But--sometimes (especially today) these are not "retold" from generation to generation. I remember my grandmother (who had Native American ancestry) talking about the annual Harvest Moon or the Hunter's Moon--as both offered "extra light" to either farmers seeking time to bring in late harvests or hunter's seeking heavier light to hunt nocturnal prey. I realized, with this April's moon, that I have never shared those things with the girls. Every month's moon phases offer something for us to share--to pass down--to teach our children from our ancestors. This moon offers a wonderful opportunity to explore its different names--whether that exploration is by growing some Pink Phlox for next spring--or discussing the relationship of this moon to Easter--or to the Spring Equinox.
The Pink Moon helps science and math join forces. Really. One of my daughters hates math--but, she loves statistics and probabilities. Our moon phases are patterned--and our ancient ancestors learned to "map" our months and our expectations by following and documenting our moon phases. This is a great time to discuss patterns in our environment! We can Learn about Earth's Moon Phases throughout the Year. This "full" moon happens every 29.5 days--essentially once a month. What can we learn about next month's moon? Or June's? What can we learn about the moon's transitions in size and shape throughout each month? This offers a great look at the how and why behind what we see in the night sky. It's also a great look at patterns, statistic and our Earth's environment.
We can Learn the Value of Personal Research. While we could certainly take the "pink moon" photos that are alive everywhere online for granted--and head out expecting to see a vivid, beautiful, pink, full moon--I think this is a wonderful opportunity to encourage the kids to research what interests them and see (and understand) both the realities of the event and the media at work behind the scenes. We won't diminish the significance of this moon--but, we learned that we probably won't see a pink moon--and, we developed a greater respect for our neighbor's annual, April phlox (although it's purple and not pink!)
If you would like to learn more about the Pink Moon in April & upcoming special moons...
Check out 2017's Full Moon Names and Details at Space.com