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The Moon

The Moon In April

The first full month of spring kicks off with dark skies.  On the 1st of April we see a last quarter moon,  transitioning into a new moon by the 8th evening.  This is a bonus for any dark sky observer who wants to observe the faintest of objects, as the side of the moon facing Earth will not be lit up by the sun and will appear invisible in the night sky. The entire first half of the month is ideal for dark sky viewing.

The illuminated portion of the moon will gradually grow larger, until it reaches its first quarter phase, mid-month on the 15th.  The next few days provide some incredible views while it is waxing gibbous, up until the full moon on the 23rd.  The moon will rise as the sun sets in the early evening sky, and will be visible all evening and straight through until morning sunrise.

We close out the month with a waning gibbous moon, as it reaches its third quarter phase, where half of its visible surface will be darkened by shadows on April 30th.

Moon Name

April’s full moon is known as the Pink Moon, so called in honor of a wildflower – creeping phlox – blooming in North America at this time of year. It’s also known as ‘moss pink’. This year, we’ll see the Pink Moon on the evening of 23 April.

Other cultures named the April full moon the Egg Moon, Fish Moon, or even Sprouting Grass Moon. As you might already have guessed, each culture names the full moon for something relevant to them at the time of year it is seen.

Viewing Summary

Dark EveningsDark MorningsDark NightEvening MoonMorning MoonLibrations
1-8, 26-303-121-911-2317-281, 3, 14, 19
Evenings = 8pm to midnight, mornings = midnight to 4am, all night = 9pm to 3am (sunrise/set is ignored, moonset/rise hour is included)

Moon Phases, Rise & Set Times

Whether you are planning to observe the moon, or you want to make sure to avoid it, use the table below to discover when the moon will be above the horizon this month. The ‘Illumination’ column shows how bright it is going to be – the higher the %, the brighter the moon.

Moon Table Notes

  • A=Apogee (furthest approach), P=Perigee (closest approach), FQ=First Quarter, LQ=Last Quarter
  • All times are for Kansas City (DST). However, these times will be approximately accurate for your local time zone wherever you are in the northern hemisphere. For example, if you live in London, UK, the moonrise and set times will be no more than an hour different from those shown in the table above.
  • There are two moonrise columns in the table, this is because each day is timed from midnight to midnight. On some days in the month the moon is already in the sky at midnight, therefore it sets first before rising again later in the day. On other days, the moon is below the horizon at midnight. On those days it rises first before setting later in the day.
  • The data in the table comes from timeanddate.com

Visualization Of The Moon’s Impact

The following chart shows a visualisation of when the moon is above the horizon and below. This should make it easier for you to plan which nights offer the darkest skies and which provide the best opportunity for observing the moon itself.


First & Last Quarter Moon Locations

The two pictures below, from SkySafari 6, show the last and first quarter moons available to us in April.

We’ll see it reach last quarter on 1 April, when the moon will be passing through Sagittarius. Last quarter is always best viewed in the morning, when the moon is higher in the sky. The image below shows the moon’s location at 5:00 am when it will be 18° over the southern horizon.

First quarter, which is better for lunar gazers outside in the evening, happens on the 15th of April. The second star chart below reveals that the moon is in Cancer that night, very close to the Pleiades, and 58° above the southwest horizon at 9:00 pm.

Click on the pictures for full screen versions.

Last quarter moon, 5:00 am on April 1st (click for full screen)
First quarter moon, 9:00 pm on April 15th (click for full screen)

Librations

The moon wobbles as it orbits Earth. These wobbles are known as librations and they show us parts of the Moon’s surface which are usually on the ‘dark side’. This means that we can actually see around 59% of the lunar surface over the course of a month. Keen moon watchers look for these librations so they can spy craters not normally visible to us.

The best librations for April occur on the 1st and the 14th of the month. The libration on April 1st provides a closer look at the north west section of the moon.  While on the 14th of April, we’ll get to see more of the eastern side of our neighbor than we can normally see, however it may be more challenging as the moon is quite full.  Learn more about librations here on Love the Night Sky (opens a new tab).

More information on how to read the images is provided at the bottom of this page.

Libration for 1 April 2024
Libration for 3 April 2024
Libration for 14 April 2024
Libration for 19 April 2024

Guide to libration images

Where the two blue lines cross shows the center of the lunar surface when there is no libration. The blue dot shows the center of the Moon’s surface, i.e. where the Earth would appear overhead if you were standing on the lunar surface. The yellow dot (cone) shows where the Sun is overhead.

Use the images above to see where each libration occurs this month and how large it is. Firstly, imagine a line running from the crossed blue lines and through the center of the blue dot. Extend this line on to the edge of the Moon’s surface. Where the line meets the edge is where the libration is most noticeable, this is shown as a red arrowhead in the diagram on the right.

Secondly, to see how large the libration is, note the distance between the crossed blue lines and and the blue dot. This is shown as the double-headed green arrow in the diagram. The larger this distance, the more of the ‘dark side’ of the Moon we can see.

The images above are generated on this NASA website.

Click for full-size version
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