Think Pink For Tonight’s Full Moon

Birch trees glow in the light of the setting sun yesterday evening. Sunlight also illuminates the nearly full moon. Photo: Bob King

Like pink? My daughters sure do. Each still has a pair of sweat pants with the word LOVE PINK emblazoned across the rear. Full moons wear pink too thanks to vapor and dust in the atmosphere around the time of moonrise.

The moon is near Spica and Saturn tonight and tomorrow night. Created with Stellarium

Tonight’s full moon is named the Pink Moon – nothing to do with suggestive clothing but a reference instead to moss pink or phlox, one of spring’s early wildflowers. Since full moons are directly opposite the sun, they rise in the east about the same time the sun sets in the west. For Duluth, Minn. the big moment is 8:06 p.m. tonight. Click HERE to find the time of moonrise for your town.

Once the sky darkens, you’ll see the moon has two companions in tow. Virgo’s brightest star Spica sparkles just two degrees to its left (east); five degrees farther to the east you’ll bump into the planet Saturn. Splendid company.

The moon never stops moving as it orbits the Earth, traveling eastward (to the left as you face south) at the rate of about 12 degrees per day or one fist held at arm’s length against the sky. We experience the moon’s orbital motion as hour-later moonrise times with each passing night. Tonight however, you can watch the moon’s motion in a matter of hours with nothing more than your naked eye by noting its position relative to Spica.

Stay up late tonight and watch the moon change position in relation to Spica and Saturn.

Early this evening the moon will form a nearly straight line with Spica and Saturn for sky watchers in the eastern half of the U.S.

By midnight, that line will be bent downward, and if you stay up into the wee hours, the moon’s shift with respect to Spica will be obvious.

When you make your observation, keep in mind that all three objects will change orientation as a group with respect to the horizon as they travel from east to west during the night because of Earth’s rotation.  To notice the moon’s movement, ignore that and compare its position only in relation to Spica and Saturn.

Whether pink, orange, white or blue, I hope your face will reflect a little moonlight tonight.

5 Responses

  1. Denise

    The moon was beautiful last night as you have been discussing. But did anyone see the moving orange/red glow moving north to southeast about 8:40 p.m. last night? It was coming right at me, very close like a plane, however there was no noise associated with it. At first I thought it was a meteorite (the biggest one I’ve ever seen), but instead of burning out and falling, it turned west and went back up north (faster than a jet) and got smaller and smaller as it got further away until it was out of site. I am not an astrologist or claim to know anything about it. But my friend and I have never seen anything like it before. Very strange…..

    1. astrobob

      Hi Denise,
      I took a nice long walk with the moon out last night. The object you saw sounds a little like one of those sky lanterns that are becoming very popular. People light the candle-thingy inside and they float up and away silently.

        1. astrobob

          They move with the wind and are close by, so they might appear to move fairly fast – not like a meteor, but faster than say one a transcontinental jet.

          1. Denise

            Wow – I’ve never heard of them before. Sounds like that is most likely what it was then. Thanks for the information!

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