Full Pink Moon (Chris Vaughan, Starry Night Education)
Full Pink Moon (Chris Vaughan, Starry Night Education)

This Week’s Sky: April 6 to 12

Look for a Full Moon this week, and check out the Little Dipper as it points sideways.

Tuesday, April 7 all night – The Apollo Landing Sites

The Apollo landing sites (Chris Vaughan, Starry Night Education)

The six crewed Apollo Missions were sent to different regions of the Moon in order to carry out experiments and to bring back rock samples that help us determine the age and composition of the Moon’s surface. For safety reasons, Apollo 11 was sent to the flat and relatively featureless terrain of Mare Tranquillitatis “Sea of Tranquility” near the Moon’s equator (red line). Later missions landed in more rugged regions with complex geology. When the Moon approaches the full phase, all of the regions where the astronauts explored are illuminated by sunlight, but no telescope on Earth is strong enough to see the equipment left on the Moon.

Wednesday, April 8 at 2:35 GMT – Full Sucker/Goose/Pink Moon

Full Pink Moon (Chris Vaughan, Starry Night Education)

The Moon will reach its full phase at 2:35 GMT on Wednesday, April, 8. That corresponds to 10:35 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, April 7. April’s Full Moon always shines in or near the stars of Virgo. Every culture around the world has developed its own set of stories for the Moon, and every month’s Full Moon nowadays has one or more nicknames.

According to the Ontario Native Literacy Coalition, the Ojibwe or Anishnaabe peoples of the Great Lakes region call the April Full Moon “Namebine-giizis, the “Sucker Moon,” for the fish. It signifies a time to learn cleansing and healing ways. The Cree of North America call it “Niskipisim,” the “the Goose Moon” — the time when the geese return with spring. For Europeans, it is commonly called the Pink Moon, Sprouting Grass Moon, Egg Moon or Fish Moon.

Full Moons always rise in the east as the Sun sets, and set in the west at sunrise. When fully illuminated, the Moon’s geology is enhanced, especially the contrast between the bright, ancient, cratered highlands and the darker, younger, smoother maria. This Full Moon will occur less than nine hours after perigee, the point in the Moon’s orbit when it is closest to Earth, generating high tides worldwide and making this the second of three consecutive Supermoons in 2020.

Friday, April 10 all night – The Little Dipper points sideways

The Little Dipper points sideways (Chris Vaughan, Starry Night Education)

Polaris marks the tip of the handle of the Little Dipper, the asterism we also know as the constellation Ursa Minor, the Little Bear. In mid-April after dusk, the rest of the Little Dipper extends sideways to the right from Polaris, and curves strongly upwards towards the Big Dipper. The two dippers flank the tail stars of Draco the Dragon. The magnitude 2.06 star at the outer edge of the Little Dipper’s bowl (and closest to the Big Dipper) is slightly dimmer than Polaris. This medium-cool, reddish star is named Kochab. The other five stars of the Dipper may be too dim to see from the city, but binoculars will reveal them.

Chris Vaughan is a science writer, geophysicist, astronomer, planetary scientist and an “outreach RASCal.” He writes Astronomy Skylights, and you can follow him on Twitter at @astrogeoguy. He can also bring his Digital Starlab portable inflatable planetarium to your school or other daytime or evening event. Contact him through AstroGeo.ca to tour the universe together.