Tonight – April 10, 2017 – presents the first full moon of spring for the Northern Hemisphere and the first full moon of autumn for the Southern Hemisphere. In most years, the Christian celebration of Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon of Northern Hemisphere spring. So tonight’s Easter Moon heralds the coming of Easter Sunday on April 16, 2017.
The first full moon of the season shines in front of the constellation Virgo the Maiden, turning precisely full on April 11 at 6:08 UTC. In North America, the full moon occurs tonight, or sometime between sunset April 10 and sunrise April 11. At North American time zones, the moon turns full on April 11 at 3:08 a.m. ADT, 2:08 a.m. EDT, 1:08 a.m. CDT, 12:08 a.m. MDT – and on April 10, at 11:08 p.m. PDT and 10:08 p.m. AKDT.
This year, in 2017, the full moon celebrates the change of seasons by pairing up with the dazzling planet Jupiter. Jupiter, in turn, stays in front of the constellation Virgo until November 2017. So even though the moon will leave Virgo after a few more days, Jupiter remains in the vicinity of Spica, Virgo’s brightest star, for months to come.
The glamorous couple – Jupiter and Spica – will adorn the evening sky from now until September 2017. Then they’ll both slip into the sun’s glare, to reemerge in the morning sky a month or so later.
For the Northern Hemisphere, we often call the first full moon of springtime the Pink Moon, to celebrate the return of certain wild flowers. Other Northern Hemisphere names for this full moon are Egg Moon, Sprouting Grass Moon, or Easter Moon.
In the Southern Hemisphere, this is the first full moon of autumn. It’s the Southern Hemisphere’s Hunter’s Moon – the full moon that immediately follows the Harvest Moon. One month ago, the full moon on March 12, 2017, was the Southern Hemisphere’s Harvest Moon because it was the closest full moon to their autumn equinox. The Harvest and Hunter’s Moons usher in a procession of moonlit nights, because the moon rises fairly soon after sunset for several nights in a row. If you live at middle or far southerly latitudes, look for the moon to shine from dusk till dawn for a few days in succession.
Astronomically speaking, the moon is full for only an instant, at the moment that it’s most opposite the sun for the month.
But of course, to the eye, the moon appears full for several days around that exact instant of full moon. For instance, one day before this April full moon, the moon was 99% illuminated by sunshine. One day after the April full moon, the moon will again be 99% illuminated by sunshine.
Want to know how much of the lunar disk is illuminated by sunshine right now? Click here.
Bottom line: First full moon of spring for the Northern Hemisphere – and first full moon of autumn for the Southern Hemisphere – falls on the night of April 10-11, 2017. On this night, the moon is in front of the constellation Virgo, near the dazzling planet Jupiter and Virgo’s brightest star, Spica.
Bruce McClure has served as lead writer for EarthSky's popular Tonight pages since 2004. He's a sundial aficionado, whose love for the heavens has taken him to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and sailing in the North Atlantic, where he earned his celestial navigation certificate through the School of Ocean Sailing and Navigation. He also writes and hosts public astronomy programs and planetarium programs in and around his home in upstate New York.