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