Last weekend, stargazers witnessed the "pink moon." What other types of moons are there?
As we reported earlier, the Internet was buzzing about a stunning “pink moon” that supposedly rose in the night sky this weekend. While the headlines may have made some excited to see a new lunar phenomenon, the moon was not actually pink on Friday evening – the name refers to the moon’s specific position in relation to the Earth.
The moon this weekend probably looked like it normally does. There was nothing going on that would have turned the moon itself pink – the name actually refers to what goes on here on Earth.
Native Americans used lunar phases to keep track of time, and each full moon throughout the year signified a different milestone in the progression of the seasons. The pink moon, for instance, was named after the pink phlox, one of the first flowers that bloom in the Northeast each spring. Colonial Europeans likely adopted this name and continued to use it as they began to settle North America.
The pink moon is just one of the names for the full moons of the year. In January, for instance, the “full wolf moon” ascends in the sky. Native Americans named the cold winter full moon after the packs of hungry wolves that would howl at the edges of settlements. February’s full moon was known as the “full snow moon” after the heavy winter precipitation that blanketed the land.
The summer months bring May’s “full flower moon,” June’s “full strawberry moon,” and August’s “full sturgeon moon” to signify the arrival of seasonal plants and fish, all leading up to the infamous harvest moon in the fall.
The tradition of naming each month’s full moon dates back to an ancient method of keeping time. Today astronomers and space fans alike track the progression of the moon in the night sky for fun, but it has deep roots in early human tradition.
A NASA press release describing a pink moon event from 2010 can be found here.