Welcome to the Pink Moon! This is a "moonthly" blog (did you know the word "month" derives from Moon? Lunar calendars were all the rage) about life in the planetary sciences and/or musings on life in general from a planetary scientist's perspective. The running theme will be to post once every full Moon, and twice once in a blue Moon... if you follow. I think it's fun to stay positive and be inclusive, so you won't find harsh and sarcastic political opinions in Pink Moon. Instead, read this blog if you are interested in planetary science or how a planetary scientist tries to understand the natural world around them. I like to meet new people and understand where they come from. I hope you can find the same here, sincerely.
For the first-ever full Pink Moon blog, I thought it appropriate to post on April's full Pink Moon (and it's tonight! Literally just look up tonight to see the Full Pink Moon!), which happens to also be the topic AND was the title of my first-ever scientific peer-reviewed publication. I have a lot of people ask me if the "Pink Moon" paper was in reference to the late folk singer-songwriter, Nick Drake. Sort of, but not really. You could make the case that the opening track of his last studio album of the same name popularized the term - that's certainly the first time I'd ever heard "Pink Moon." The reason for using it in the title of my paper is a little more "esoteric," as someone once put it, or nerdy is another way of saying that.
I'm pretty interested in learning about the etymology of phrases. Ever wonder why people say "Sleep tight," or where the phrases "a bird in hand is worth two in the bush" and "fly off the handle" originate from? Naturally, I wanted to know where the term "Pink Moon" came from and what it actually was. For instance, I knew a blue Moon was the second full Moon occurring in the same calendar month, and so I wondered if a pink Moon was the second new Moon occurring in the same month? Or maybe it was just a lyric describing a memory of a day-lit Moon during a pink-hued sunset? I honestly had no idea, which is true for a lot of things. After learning some, I instantly fell in love with its symbolism and relation to my research on the Moon. Here's the so-called "esoteric" post script from my cover letter to the editor justifying a somewhat informal title in a scientific article (warning: if you don't know what a "Mg-suite" is, ehh you'll probably be fine. Keep going and ask questions at the end!)...
P.s. The title “Pink Moon” is a play on the name given to April’s full Moon by Northern Native Americans. It was named after a flowering plant Phlox Subulata, or moss pink, which is an early blossom signifying the onset of spring. Mg-suite rock types (and by extension, pink spinel anorthosites) are among the oldest samples from the Moon and thus, represent the onset of ancient lunar magmatism. Additionally, we approach lunar evolution from the perspective of Pink Spinel Anorthosites (i.e., a “Pink Moon”).
I'll elaborate: I loved this idea that pink moss was the key indicator for spring and the initial stages of seasonal change. "OMG sweet," I thought, "pink moss is SO Moon!" You see in geology, we have these terms "primary crust" - used to describe what the very first, unaltered and solidified rocky shell of a planet was before the formation of a "secondary crust" - which defines what that primary crust turns into after geologic processes have changed it or the literal production of secondary crustal material. Think of it this way, if the top tier of your funfetti cake is a primary crust, then a volcanic eruption of icing that flows over your funfetti cake could be considered the secondary crust. #Geolicious.
On the Moon, pink spinel (not a moss, but a mineral comprised of magnesium and aluminum oxides. It's actually pink and makes for a nice gemstone - so nice, in fact, that it was often mistaken for ruby among some of England's crown jewels) is found almost exclusively within an ancient group of igneous rocks now referred to as the "Mg-suite," Mg as in magnesium-rich. The Mg-suite rocks are thought to be the key indicators for the first stages of change to the primary lunar crust. See what just happened there?
Earth's pink moss = spring and a new beginning, and change, and the Easter Bunny hopping along with a basket full of eggs.
The Moon's pink spinel = a new beginning and violent volcanic eruptions, and scorching hot turbulent magmas capable of digesting jagged fragments of the primary lunar crust, and Apollo astronauts hopping along in low-gravity Moon boots with a basket full of Mg-suite.
The two are eerily similar if you were to ask an esoteric nerd.
The research itself was spurred by the detection of a potentially new Mg-suite rock containing pink spinel - the pink spinel anorthosites (you can read more about this over in the research section). The story goes something like this: A really great instrument was designed to map the entire mineralogy of the Moon's surface, and it hitched a ride with some other great instruments aboard an Indian space craft that was blasting off this rock to orbit the Moon for awhile. This flying rock-hammer of sorts is how geologists detected pink spinel from space! Here was our thought puzzle: if the pink spinel rocks we see from space really are "new Moon rocks," how will our understanding of lunar history change if we add them to the story? In this way, my PhD research tells the early history and evolution of the Moon's crust through a pink-filtered lens - hence: a Pink Moon.
I'm not sure if any of that was less esoteric than the p.s. above, but maybe (hopefully) you at least know when a Pink Moon is and why it is called as such, and/or are now semi-motivated to bake a funfetti cake for a good friend (*cough*).
In any case, mark your lunar calendars for May 10th and the Full Flower Moon. I'm not exactly sure what I'll be discussing other than I can confidently say that it won't be flowers - I'm more of a moss guy. Kelsey actually gave me the idea to discuss what it's like to be involved in writing up a science review book - how do you get involved? What is the writing process like? This is a HUGE undertaking and involves several people and key components all aimed at a common goal (and deadline!).
For now, I want to say thanks for stopping by and that I'd be happy to hear your thoughts so be sure to leave your comments and questions below!
Until the farside falls asleep once more,