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Spring has officially sprung, and this year spring coincides with supermoon season.
However, there's actually some debate over how many supermoons we will experience in 2021. Some sky-watching groups say four, in March, April, May and June; others say just two, in April and May. The discrepancy is because supermoon is not an official astronomical term, so there is no exact definition, according to NASA. By NASA's standards, the April and May full moons will be supermoons.
Another generally accepted standard is that supermoons occur when a full moon is within 90% of the closest possible approach to Earth, according to Space.com. By that standard, the March, April, May and June moons are all supermoons.
Supermoons get their superlative name because these full moons are brighter and larger than others we see in the night sky, NASA reports. We see these moons as larger and brighter because the moon is full at the same time its orbit reaches its closest point to Earth, called the perigee.
Because it travels in an elliptical orbit, the moon is not always the same distance from Earth. It averages about 238,855 miles away, but it's 252,088 miles away at its farthest point, the apogee, and 225,623 miles away at its closest point, the perigee.
April's full moon will occur on Tuesday, April 26, reaching its fullest point at precisely 10:32 p.m. The month's full moon is called the pink moon or, this year, the super pink moon.
April's moon is called the pink moon after wild ground phlox, also called herb moss pink, which produces its pink blooms in April. It is one of the earliest blooming flowers each spring, according to the Farmers' Almanac. Other nicknames for April's full moon include the egg moon, the full sprouting grass moon and the full fish moon, a name common among coastal tribes because April is the month when shad swim upstream to spawn.
Meteors will also be streaking through the night sky in April, with two meteor showers active during the month. The first is the Lyrids meteor shower, which runs from April 16 to April 30. Peak activity — when the most meteors are expected — will be the night of April 21 into April 22, according to the American Meteor Society.
The Lyrids are considered a medium-strength meteor shower, and they are best viewed from the northern hemisphere, the meteor society reports. Fireballs (very bright meteors) are occasionally reported with the Lyrids. The best time for seeing meteors from this shower is the hours just before dawn.
The eta Aquariids meteor shower starts on April 19 and will continue until May 28. Peak activity will be the night of May 4 into May 5, according to the meteor society. The eta Aquariids are a strong meteor shower, but they are best viewed from the southern hemisphere. In the northern hemisphere, fewer meteors are seen. Peak activity is in the hours just before dawn.
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