Lunar Eclipse Thursday: Why Is It Called A 'Pink' Full Moon?

By Philip Ross on April 25, 2013 10:35 AM EDT

pink full moon lunar eclipse
The moon is seen during a total lunar eclipse from Cairo June 15, 2011. During the eclipse, the earth is lined up directly between the sun and the moon, casting the earth's shadow over the moon. (Photo: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

A lunar eclipse on Thursday, April 25, will have many of us looking towards the sky to marvel at one of nature's more spectacular phenomena. The first of three lunar eclipses this year, Thursday's lunar eclipse is something of a novelty, as it happens to coincide with this year's "Pink" Full Moon, the name given to April's annual full moon.

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Calling April's full moon "pink" is a misnomer, because Thursday's "Pink" Full Moon isn't really pink; as iScience Times reported earlier this week, the moon will still have the yellowish-white complexion that it always does.

Then why do we call it a "Pink" Full Moon?

How A Lunar Eclipse Is Made

A lunar eclipse happens when the moon is swallowed by the Earth's shadow. It occurs when the sun, Earth and moon line up such that the moon falls directly into the long shadow cast by our planet. According to a video from How Stuff Works, lunar eclipses happen during the eclipse seasons, which occur about every six months. When an eclipse does occur, the Earth's shadow can blot out the entire moon for a full half hour.

Thursday's lunar eclipse will be a partial eclipse, meaning only a portion of the moon will be completely dark.

"In this case, the moon only just clips the edge of the deepest part of the shadow, called the umbra," Mark Hammergren, an astronomer at Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Ill., told National Geographic. According to Hammergren, the moon's entire northern half will be darkened by the penumbra, a broader, less intense area of Earth's shadow.

Why Is April's Full Moon "Pink?"

Why is Thursday's full moon called a "Pink" Full Moon? According to Farmer's Almanac, the "Pink" Full Moon is named for the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which sprouts abundantly in early spring.

Full Moon names date back to the time of Indigenous Americans, when tribes used the names of moons to keep track of seasons. January's full moon is called the Full Wolf Moon; February's, the Full Snow Moon; March's, the Full Worm Moon, because that's when temperatures in North America are getting warmer and the earthworms begin to appear.

Other names for April's "Pink" Full Moon include Full Sprouting Grass Moon, Egg Moon and Full Fish Moon.

Where Can Lunar Eclipse Be Seen?

International Business Times reports that the lunar eclipse Thursday will occur around 4 p.m. Eastern time. From Space.com:

Beginning at 2:04 p.m. EDT (1804 GMT), the moon begins to meet the Earth's shadow; a little over two hours later it arrives under the middle of that shadow. By then the moon will have just risen and will be visible low to the east-southeast horizon as seen from Ireland, and will be setting over south-central Japan in the morning hours of Friday, April 26.

Unfortunately, North America will not be treated to the celestial show on Thursday. The lunar eclipse will be seen over the Indian Ocean, central Asia, western Australia, Africa and Europe, according to National Geographic.

However, Space.com reports that there will be another lunar eclipse that can be seen from the Americas on May 25, so if you miss the first act, it doesn't mean the show is over.

Read more from iScience Times:

Pink Full Moon Thursday: What Time And Where To Catch April's Lunar Eclipse

Neil Armstrong Buzz Aldrin Moon Landing Signed Instruction Sheet To Fetch Over £60,000; See Photos Here

Moon Water Found: 'Native' Water Source Key For Colonization

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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