The full moon of will be joined by a few visible planets this month.
April's full moon, the "Pink Moon" will occur in the eastern U.S. on April 6 at 12:34 p.m. (0434 UTC), according to the U.S. Naval Observatory. In New York City, moonrise is at 7:04 p.m. EDT on April 5, several hours before it is officially full, according to timeanddate.com. The sun sets that evening at 7:24 p.m., so the two will share the sky for a short time.
The timing of lunar phases depends on one's time zone; in Paris, the full moon occurs at 5:34 a.m. local time on April 6 while in Melbourne, Australia, it is at 2:34 p.m. local time on April 6, with the moon rising that evening at 6:14 p.m. Australian Eastern Standard Time.
Hoping to snap a good photo of this full moon? Our guide on how to photograph the moon has some helpful tips. If you're looking for a camera, here's our overview on the best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography. As always, our guides for the best telescopes and best binoculars can help you prepare for the next great skywatching event.
Full moons happen when the sun and moon are on the opposite sides of the Earth. The moon's orbit is inclined slightly to the plane of the Earth's orbit, so the moon doesn't pass through the Earth's shadow every time it completes a circuit of the Earth. Similarly, we don't see the moon pass directly between the sun and Earth every month. As a result, we see the fully illuminated side of our satellite most months (the very word "month" comes from the word "moon"). When the moon does pass through the shadow of the Earth we see a lunar eclipse — the next one is slated for May 5, and will be visible Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia).
Through binoculars or a telescope, the full moon is so bright that details can often be lost. From a lunar observer's perspective the sun would be directly overhead — it would be noon — so there are few shadows to give any contrast. Moon filters are available that can make some features stand out, but if one waits a few days after the full moon or observes a few days before, shadows will bring out more detail. Meanwhile, on Earth, the full moon is bright enough to cast visible shadows (the effect is especially stark on a snowy surface in winter).
April's Full Pink Moon and visible planets
On the night of April 5, as the moon gets higher in the evening, one can see no fewer than three of the five naked-eye planets. For observers in mid-northern latitudes, one can catch Mercury just after sunset, which is heading towards its highest elevation in the evening sky (that occurs on April 11). On April 5, when the sun sets in New York, the planet will be about 16 degrees high in the west, but it won't become easily visible until about 20 minutes after the sun gets below the western horizon. Mercury will still be about 12 degrees high; difficult to spot, but not impossible. Above Mercury, and much brighter, is Venus, which is often one of the first "stars" to come out as the sky gets darker. At sunset Venus is at about 35 degrees altitude, and it is so bright it is often mistaken for an airplane. Higher still and some distance east is Mars, though that planet will be more easily spotted by about 8 p.m. local time. It will still be some 65 degrees up.
Jupiter and Saturn are both not readily visible, as they are currently up during the day and lost in the solar glare. Jupiter sets only 20 minutes after sunset and Saturn rises on April 5 at 4:58 a.m. in New York; it can be seen hugging the horizon, just 10 degrees high by 6 a.m. on April 5; the sun follows it at 6:33 a.m.
For observers in mid-southern latitudes, such as in Melbourne, Mercury is much lower in the sky at sunset; it is basically not observable as it is only a few degrees above the horizon at sunset; on April 6 the planet sets at 6:40 p.m. while the sun sets at 6:06 p.m. local time. Venus is also low to the horizon, but its brightness makes it an easier target. At sunset the planet is still some 16 degrees above the northwestern horizon, so as evening progresses it will become more distinct even as it gets lower; the planet sets at 7:43 p.m. local time.
Mars is higher still, and almost due north, but it too is only 26 degrees high at sunset, and won't become readily visible until about 6:30 p.m. local time, when it should just be coming out against the darkening sky. Mars sets at 10:22 p.m. local time and by 7 p.m. makes a triangle of reddish lights with Betelgeuse above it and to the left and Aldebaran slightly below and further to the left (westwards). Jupiter and Saturn, as viewed from the Northern Hemisphere, are largely unobservable as they are so close to the sun.
Constellations with the Full Pink Moon
The moon will be in Virgo, one of the more prominent springtime constellations. One can find Spica, the brightest star in the group, by using the Big Dipper's handle and making an "arc to Arcturus." A sweep along the handle leads one to Arcturus, the brightest star in Boötes, the Herdsman, and continuing southward leads to Spica, which will rise at about 8 p.m. local time in New York. By 9 p.m. Virgo is completely above the horizon.
As you turn westward along the Zodiac, one encounters Leo, the Lion, which by about 10 p.m. on April 5 is high in the southeast in mid-northern latitudes. In darker sky locations, one can see the Hydra which snakes its way up the sky from near the horizon to the right of Virgo to just to the west (below and to the right) of Leo. The Hydra carries Crater, the cup, another fainter group of stars that will be to the right (east) of the moon at about 10 p.m., though the full moon may make it harder to see it.
After midnight, the summer stars become visible, with and the Summer Triangle — Vega, Altair and Deneb — above the horizon by 2 a.m. East of Virgo (and the moon) will be Scorpius, which hosts Antares, with a distinctive reddish tint that makes it visible even with the moon's glare.
If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, by about 7:30 p.m., one will see Alpha Centauri 28 degrees high in the southeast, with Hadar, the second-brightest star in Centaurus, just above it and to the left. Above that is the Southern Cross, and higher still — nearly two-thirds of the way to the zenith and in the southwest — is Canopus, the brightest star in Carina, the Ship's Keel. South of Carina one can, from darker sky locations, see the Large Magellanic Coud and Small Magellanic Cloud; these are two satellite galaxies of the Milky Way. Also in the western sky, stretching from low in the southwest to the northwest, is Eridanus, the River, which starts at Achernar, a star that will be directly below Canopus but only 26 degrees high, and winds its way to a point near Rigel, the foot of Orion.
How the Full Pink Moon got its name
Despite its moniker, the Pink Moon isn't actually pink. The name "Pink Moon" comes from the bloom of ground phlox, a pink flower common in North America, according to The Old Farmer's Almanac. It has also been called the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon and the Fish Moon.
According to the Ontario Native Literacy Coalition, the Ojibwe peoples indigenous to North America called it the Sucker Moon after the common fish species known as suckerfish. This fish, also known as the remora, is one of the animals that the Ojibwe saw as a messenger between the spirit world and ours. In the same region, the Cree called April's full moon the Goose Moon, as April was the month when geese returned to the north after migrating south for the winter.
The Tlingit of the Pacific Northwest call the April full moon "X'eigaa Kayaaní Dís," meaning "Budding moon of plants and shrubs," according to the Tlingit Moon and Tide Teaching Resource published by the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.
In New Zealand, the Māori people's traditions for April full moons reflect the fact that April is an autumn month in the Southern Hemisphere. The Māori called the April moon "Paenga-whāwhā," describing the month as a time when "all straw is now stacked at the borders of the plantations," according to The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
For Jewish people, April 5 marks the beginning of the holiday of Passover (the 15th day of the lunar month of Nisan), which celebrates the escape from slavery in Egypt. Christians celebrate Easter during this lunation, though the date of Easter is calculated from the 14th day of the lunar month rather than the astronomical full moon, and western churches have generally followed the rule of Easter falling on a Sunday following that lunar date. Hence Easter in 2023 is April 9, the first Sunday after the lunar date (14th day of the 4th month) that falls after the vernal equinox — but even that last date is a little arbitrary, because while the astronomical equinox can fall on March 19, 20, or 21, churches use March 21 by convention.
In China, the April full moon falls during the second lunar month, but that's because there is a "leap month" this year; the lunar calendar has to add such a month every so often to stay in step with the seasons because a lunation is shorter than a typical calendar month — 28.5 days as opposed to 30 or 31 days. So even though it is the third lunation of the year, the month is a second run of the "Apricot Month" or Xìngyuè, called such because it is when the eponymous trees blossom.
Editor's note: If you get an amazing photo of April's Full Pink Moon you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, you can send images and comments in to firstname.lastname@example.org.