Did you look up in the sky and see a moon that looked pink? The full moon we see in April can sometimes be referred to as a pink moon, but is it really pink? Sadly, it's not really pink. Leading into the full moon, everyone was excited to see what they anticipated as a "pink moon." But in reality, this moon is no different than a normal full moon. A full moon happens when the moon, sun and Earth are the most closely aligned. At this point, the moon is almost fully illuminated by the sun, which is why we can see so much of its surface.
So, if it's not actually pink, why is it called a "full pink moon?" According to the Farmer's Almanac, the term "pink moon" comes from Native American folklore. April's full moon saw the return of the moss pink — a wild plant called phlox. Phlox is one of the first spring flowers. In addition to being known as the pink moon, April's full moon has also been called the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon and the Fish Moon.
Using the nicknames for full moons is a great way to get people more interested. #pinkmoon was a hashtag people were using on social media while sharing their pictures. Making it more social media friendly is a great way to get people who wouldn't normally be interested in things like a full moon engaged. It may seem ridiculous, but seeing #pinkmoon trending will cause more people to be curious about what it's all about.
There are differing opinions on the use of the term pink moon among experts. In speaking with NBC News MACH, Jay Pasachoff,who is an astronomer at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts and Brother Guy Consolmagno, the director of the Vatican Observatory in Rome felt differently. Though neither man had ever heard the full moon referred to as a pink moon previously, they had fairly strong opposing views on the use of the term.
"I think these names are distracting from the real interest in the moon," Pasachoff explains.
"I think it’s great that people personalize it so," Consolmagno counters. "I just wish more people actually looked up and paid attention to the moon, just to be aware of the universe around them and to get their noses out of their cellphones."
The Full Flower moon, May's full moon, happens on May 18th.