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Astro Bob: A Full Pink Moon in your Easter basket

The Easter Bunny has hidden a large, pink egg in the eastern sky. To find it, look east right around sunset.

Moondogs
Two moondogs appear on either side of a partial lunar halo over Duluth, Minn. on a recent night. They're caused by refraction of moonlight by hexagonal ice crystals in cirrostratus clouds. Moondogs are less common than sundogs but formed by the same process.
Contributed / Bob King
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Easter is celebrated on Sunday, April 17. The date of this ancient and important Christian festival always falls on the Sunday following the first full moon that occurs on or after the spring equinox. In the event that full moon falls on a Sunday, Easter is celebrated the following Sunday. This year's post-equinox full moon occurs Saturday, April 16. Since it butts right up against the date of the holiday, it's the closest to Easter a full moon can occur.

Eostre goddess
The Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre flies through the heavens in this 1901 depiction titled "Ostara" by Johannes Gehrts.
Contributed / Public domain

The word Easter has deep roots. It may have originated from Eostre (Eostrae), the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility. She's also associated with dawn and gives her name to the direction east. But the more likely origin stems from the Christian term in albis, a Latin phrase for Easter week, which became eostarum in Old High German and Ostern in modern German.

Beatrix the rabbit
Beatrix, a Flemish giant rabbit at the Lake Superior Zoo, leaps from the ramp of her cage to fetch a biscuit on Groundhog Day in 2018. Rabbits, famous for their fecundity, are symbolic of fertility.
Contributed / Bob King

What about bunnies and eggs? They're definitely pagan and represent ancient symbols of life and fertility, both of which have been celebrated at the start of spring for millennia. Even if many of us have forgotten their symbolic meaning, they'll be around for generations to come thanks to our love of chocolate.

Moonrise
It even looks like an egg when it rises! A past full moon peeks above the Wisconsin shoreline as seen from Duluth, Minn.
Contributed / Bob King

The full moon itself can be thought of as a symbol of life and renewal. It's pregnant with light from the sun, full and round, and rises into view like a child coming into the world. We wait with great anticipation moments before its appearance and celebrate "first light" with a smile, appreciation and sometimes applause.

On Friday night, April 15, the moon will appear nearly full and rise about an hour before sunset. The Full Pink Moon (named for the flower moss pink) will rise close to sunset on Saturday, April 16. To make sure you don't miss it, find your local moonrise time here .

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Rabbit in the moon
Over the next few nights, look for the rabbit in the moon by connecting adjoining dark lunar "seas." Use binoculars if you have difficulty with the naked eye. Can you see it?
Contributed / Bob King

The reason the full moon rises about the same time the sun sets is that the two bodies are directly opposite one another in the sky. If you stick both arms out and point the right one toward the setting sun, your left arm will indicate the direction of the rising moon. The Earth, where you're standing, lies directly in between.

Full moon alignment
At full moon, the sun, Earth and moon line up in a row.
Contributed / Bob King

Now, turn your back to the setting sun and imagine its light streaming past you (the Earth) and directly at the moon. Can you sense that the sun, Earth and moon all lie in a row? Can you picture how the sun illuminates the entire nearside of the moon when all three bodies are so aligned? If so, you've achieved cosmic enlightenment. Congratulations, happy Easter and clear skies!

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"Astro" Bob King is a freelance writer for the Duluth News Tribune.

Related Topics: SCIENCE AND NATURE
"Astro" Bob King is a freelance writer and retired photographer for the Duluth News Tribune.
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