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The Pink Moon will shine brightly in the skies tonight

The next full moon, also known as the Pink Moon, is set to shine brightly on Thursday morning, April 6, 2023, appearing opposite the Sun in Earth-based longitude shortly after midnight at 12:35 a.m. EDT. The moon will appear full for three days, from Tuesday evening to Friday morning. During this time, the bright star Spica will be approximately eight degrees to the lower left of the moon. 

The Maine Farmers’ Almanac first published “Indian” names for full moons in the 1930s, and these names have now become widely known and used. The Pink Moon in April is named after the herb moss pink, also known as creeping phlox, moss phlox, or mountain phlox. This plant, which is native to the eastern United States, is one of the earliest widespread flowers of spring. Other names for this moon include the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and among coastal tribes, the Fish Moon, as this is when shad swim upstream to spawn.

In addition to its various names, this full moon is also known as the Pesach or Passover Moon. Pesach or Passover begins at sundown on Wednesday, April 5, and ends at nightfall on Thursday, April 13, 2023. The Seder feasts are on the first two evenings of Passover.

In the Christian ecclesiastical calendar, this is the Paschal Moon, from which the date of Easter is calculated. Paschal is the Latinized version of Pesach. Typically, the Christian holiday of Easter, also called Pascha, is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring.

However, there are differences between the times of these astronomical events and the calendars used by the Eastern and Western churches. This year, Western Christianity will celebrate Easter on Sunday, April 9, 2023, the Sunday after this first full moon of spring. Eastern Orthodox Easter will be a week later on Sunday, April 16.

This full moon also corresponds with the Hanuman Jayanti festival for many followers of the Hindu lunisolar calendar. The celebration of the birth of Lord Hanuman is held in most areas on the full moon day of the Hindu lunar month of Chaitra.

For Buddhists, especially in Sri Lanka, this full moon is Bak Poya, which commemorates when the Buddha visited Sri Lanka and settled a dispute between chiefs, avoiding a war.

The impact of the moon on human health has been a topic of fascination for centuries. Early folklore suggested that the moon could influence human health, with common beliefs linking the full moon to increased sleep problems and seizures. While there is little scientific evidence to support these beliefs, recent studies have suggested a connection between the moon and sleep.

In 2021, scientists at Yale and the University of Washington conducted a study to investigate the impact of the moon on sleep. The study found that people generally fall asleep less on nights prior to a full moon, with lighting intensity differences preventing sleep initiation in the early hours of the night. 

The study suggests that “moonlight available during the first hours of the night is more likely to drive changes in the onset of sleep. In contrast, moonlight late in the night, when most individuals are typically asleep, should have little influence on sleep onset or duration.”

It is estimated that a full moon may bring 250 times more luminance than a moonless night, and 25 times more than when a half-moon is visible. However, the impact of this was largely explored in the context of communities that live without electricity, so it remains unclear if this holds true for the general population.

Dr. David Cunnington, a sleep specialist at Melbourne Sleep Disorders Centre, suggests that the connection between the moon and sleep may be due to our evolutionary history. “We evolved to be in tune with our environment, and the moon is a big part of that environment. The theory is that if we were still living in caves, the moon would have been a very good way to keep track of time.”

Despite the findings of the 2021 study, there are other studies that contradict the idea that the moon impacts human sleep. In 2015, a study of over 2,000 people found no link between sleep and lunar cycles. This suggests that while the moon may impact sleep in some individuals, it is not a universal phenomenon.

While the connection between the moon and sleep remains somewhat mysterious, it is clear that further research is needed to fully understand this complex relationship. In the meantime, it may be worth paying attention to the moon’s phases and seeing if they have any impact on your own sleep patterns.

For generations, there has been a belief that full moons are linked to anxiety and even violent behavior, with Aristotle proposing that water in the brain makes humans susceptible to lunar phases. However, new scientific evidence suggests that this is not the case, and that the influence of the moon on human behavior may be limited in more urban environments.

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen believe that the effect of moonlight on human behavior is probably minor in modern urban societies where most people are surrounded by an abundance of artificial light and spend evenings and nights mostly indoors. The experts say the effect may be greater in rural areas without artificial lighting, but the effect size is unknown.

The prevailing scientific evidence also contradicts the notion that full moons are linked to violent behavior. One study even found a drop in homicide rates during a full moon. Furthermore, an analysis of 17,966 medical records showed no link between psychiatric patient admissions or hospital stay times and lunar cycles.

So, what causes the Pink Moon? “Like Earth, the Moon has a day side and a night side, which change as the Moon rotates,” explains NASA. “The Sun always illuminates half of the Moon while the other half remains dark, but how much we are able to see of that illuminated half changes as the Moon travels through its orbit.”

During a full moon, the sun illuminates the entire day side of the moon, making it appear full and bright in the night sky. “The moon is opposite the sun, as viewed from Earth, revealing the moon’s dayside,” says NASA. “A full moon rises around sunset and sets around sunrise.”

While the Pink Moon won’t actually turn pink, it may appear to have an orange or yellow hue as part of a rare blood moon event. Very rarely, the moon can even appear blue if it’s being viewed through a haze of dust such as volcanic ash, according to Royal Museums Greenwich.

As we enjoy the sight of the Pink Moon, it’s important to remember that any influence it may have on human behavior is likely to be limited in urban environments, and that the prevailing scientific evidence suggests that the moon has no link to violent behavior or psychiatric admissions.

The Pink Moon is a fascinating celestial event that is rich in tradition and significance across many cultures and religions. Regardless of your beliefs, it is a beautiful sight to behold. Enjoy!

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