Spring wildflowers start popping up everywhere this month, the reason April’s full moon has pink in its name. Wild ground phlox or moss pink is one of the early flowers as are skunk cabbage, cowslips and hepaticas. And let’s not forget dandelions! In the spirit of the bloom, you can watch the Pink Moon rise tomorrow night in stunning company.
Jupiter shines just 3° (about two knuckles) to the right of the moon and 6° (about three fingers) above or north of Virgo’s brightest star, Spica. When the trio reaches its greatest height around 1 a.m. due south, they’ll form a nearly perfect right triangle for skywatchers in North American time zones.
Your calendar may give the April full moon date as April 11 — true enough if you live in the eastern half of the U.S., Europe and points east. But since the moment of maximum fullness happens at 1:08 a.m. Central Daylight Time (2 a.m. Eastern, midnight Mountain and 11 p.m. April 10) early Tuesday morning the 11th, the moon will appear more nearly round — fuller as it were — compared to the night of the 11th when sharp-eyed skywatchers will already be able to detect it on the wane.
Watch for the moon to rise around sunset Monday night and stay out all night, setting about sunrise. The full moon happens to be near Jupiter because the planet reached opposition to the sun only a couple days ago on the 7th, when it lined up behind Earth on the same side of the sun just like the full moon will do on Monday. At opposition, a planet appears opposite the sun in the sky because the Earth is exactly in between both bodies. We face west to see the setting sun and pivot 180° to the east to spy the rising planet. Just like a full moon, a planet at opposition rises at sundown and sets the next morning at sunup.
Does that mean that a full moon is also at opposition? Yes! It’s lined up on the side of Earth opposite the sun just like Jupiter was. Most of us don’t think of it as opposition though, preferring to call it simply a full moon. If clouds bother your Monday night, the moon will be nearly full on Tuesday, too but rise about an hour later in a darker sky.
Sometimes that day after full makes for more dramatic moonrises because our satellite rises against a much darker sky (deeper twilight) and appears less washed out. Take your pick!