We’re all feeling a bit stir-crazy and isolated, and there’s perhaps no better time to step outside and take in the night sky.
The biggest and brightest moon of 2020, the so-called Full Pink Moon, will make an appearance over three nights in early April.
The supermoon officially arrives on Tuesday. But nearly full moons on Monday and Wednesday evenings will make for equally great viewing.
“It’s one of the easiest astronomical phenomenons to see. All you have to do is look outside,” said Kevin Schindler, a historian at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff.
The moon won’t actually appear to be pink. The “pink” moon that appears every April gets its nickname from the shrub-like wild phlox that covers the ground in the spring.
Supermoons happen a few times a year when the moon is closest to the Earth in its orbit. The name comes from appearing about 14% larger and 30% brighter than a typical full moon.
The best time to view the supermoon is while it rises in the sky because the contrast against buildings and trees makes the moon appear even larger. On Monday night, the moonrise is 5:31 pm in the Phoenix area. On Tuesday night, the moonrise is 6:43 pm; and on Wednesday it’s 7:55 pm.
A fun game for young children is to go outside right before the moon rises and see who can spot the moon first on the horizon.
“It’s a real simple thing, but it’s fun to see,” Schindler said.
Besides supermoons, 2020 has several other celestial events that shouldn’t be missed, according to Patrick Young, a professor at Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and Adam Block, who works at Steward Observatory in the University of Arizona’s Department of Astronomy:
Lyrids Meteor Shower on April 22-23: The 2020 Lyrids meteor shower should be a good one, astronomers say. A new moon will equal darker skies and the ability to spot more meteors.
Several planets close together in mid-to-late July: The moon and three planets — Jupiter, Saturn and Mars — will appear to be close together over several nights. Spot them in the eastern sky in the evening or directly overhead around midnight. Jupiter will be the brightest, followed by Saturn and then Mars. Mars can appear to have a red glow or tint.
Perseids Meteor Shower on Aug. 12-13: This is typically the second-best meteor shower of the year, eclipsed only by the Geminids meteor shower in December. The variable is August’s stormy weather and clouds can sometimes interfere with viewing.
Orionids Meteor Shower on Oct. 21-22: The 2020 Orionids should be good because the moon will set early, meaning darker skies and the ability to see more meteors. The Orionids are not the most plentiful meteor shower of the year. But the shower is known for producing long trails visible for four seconds or even longer. Expect from 10 to 20 meteors an hour, according to the International Meteor Organization.
Geminids Meteor Shower on Dec. 13-14: The Geminids are usually the year’s best meteor shower, capable of producing 80 to 100 meteors an hour. The downside: It can be cold in December to sit outside and look for meteors.
The Great Conjunction on Dec. 21: Jupiter and Saturn will appear close together this night, making for potentially dramatic viewing when the planets appear to form a single, bright planet or star. This phenomenon only occurs once every 20 or 30 years.
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