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Pink full moon Thursday: Who gets to see it?

April's full moon is traditionally called the 'pink moon,' a reference to pink phlox, one of the earliest flowers of spring. This week's 'pink moon' might actually appear pinkish in Europe, Africa, or Asia, where spectators will see a partial lunar eclipse.

By Joe RaoSpace.com / April 22, 2013

The Earth's shadow passes across the moon during a lunar eclipse above Cape Town, May 4, 2004, creating a warm salmon glow. Thursday's lunar eclipse will be less complete than the 2004 eclipse, and won't be visible at all in the Americas. The 'pink full moon' itself, the first full moon of April, will shine on everyone with clear skies.

Mike Hutchings / Reuters / File

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This month's full moon, which falls on Thursday (April 25), always reminds me of one of the first times I viewed the April full moon

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When I was very young boy living in New York, there was a popular television weathercaster by the name of Carol Reed. While not a meteorologist, she had an upbeat personality and always finished her reports with what became her personal catch phrase: "And have a happy!"

One evening, Carol commented that it would be clear for everyone to get a good view of that night's "pink" full moon. When it got dark, my mother accompanied me outside expecting to see a salmon-colored moon, but all we saw was a full moon that looked the way it always did: yellowish-white with not a hint of pink.

While I don't recall the year of this episode, I can state most definitely that it took place in the month of April, since many years later I learned that traditionally the full moon of April is called the "pink moon," a reference made to the grass pink or wild ground phlox which is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring season.

So on Thursday night, when you look skyward at this year's version of the "pink" April full moon, remember not to take the term literally!

A bit of an eclipse

While this month's full moon may not look pink, if you live in Europe, Africa or much of Asia, you will notice something a bit different about it, because it will take place on the night of a lunar eclipse.   

Unfortunately, in North America, none of this eclipse will be visible, since the actual instant of full moon occurs on Thursday afternoon (April 25), when the moon is below the horizon.

Beginning at 2:04 p.m. EDT (1804 GMT), the moon begins to meet the Earth's shadow; a little over two hours later it arrives under the middle of that shadow. By then the moon will have just risen and will be visible low to the east-southeast horizon as seen from Ireland, and will be setting over south-central Japan in the morning hours of Friday, April 26.

Feeble at best

If we were to rank a total eclipse of the moon as a first-rate event, then what is scheduled to be seen on Thursday for those living in the Eastern Hemisphere would almost certainly fall into the third- or even fourth-rate category; in fact it might add new meaning to the term "underwhelming."

During the first 110-minutes of the eclipse, the moon's northern hemisphere pushes ever-so-gradually into the Earth's partial shadow, called the penumbra. The outer two-thirds of this are too subtle to detect; but then perhaps by 3:30 p.m. EDT (1920 GMT) you may realize you are beginning to detect the ever-so-slight gradient of a soft grey darkening around the top of the moon. 

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