A rumor making the rounds on social media claims we will observe a very rare "green moon" in April or May. The rumor claims the appearance of a green moon in the night sky on April 20, 2016, or on May 29, 2016, will be the first time the lunar phenomenon has been observed since 1847, that is, 420 years ago.
The rumor has gone viral on social media since it first emerged last month on Facebook. Many Facebook users reportedly appear to believe that a "green moon" will actually be visible in the night sky sometime this month, or late next month.
But online fact-checking websites such as Snopes and the astronomy website EarthSky have debunked the rumor, noting it is just another urban legend.
According to astronomers, we will not observe a green moon in the sky on April 20, or on May 29, 2016, as the viral rumor claims.EarthSky suggests the claim that a green moon would be visible in the sky on April 20 for the first time in 420 years could be a veiled humorous reference to marijuana. According to the astronomy website, the date April 20 (4-20) and 420 years suggest a humorous allusion to the code 420 for marijuana.
According to the Urban Dictionary, use of 420 as a code for marijuana emerged in 1971 among pot devotees at San Rafael High School, a public high school in San Rafael, California. It is claimed that 420 was originally code for "The Waldos," a group of marijuana users who met regularly at 4:20 p.m. near a statue of the scientist Louis Pasteur on the grounds of the school to smoke weed.
The date April 20 is also considered Weed Day by devoted marijuana users.Snopes adds that the rumor that a green moon would appear in the sky on May 29 may have originated recently from a March 25, 2016, Facebook post. In a March 25 update to his Facebook page, social media user Miles Johnson reportedly claimed the moon will appear green in the sky on May 29, 2016.
Johnson, who has since taken the post down, claimed the "rare green moon" would be visible "all night long on Sunday, May 29th," and implied that the appearance will be caused by the "seventh planet from the Sun, Uranus" when it "parks itself near the moon."According to the Facebook update, "The green giant is only 4 degrees away from the moon. The cosmic odd-couple will appear about four degrees apart in the sky—equal to 8 full moons side-by-side. This week after darkness falls the near full moon acts as a convenient guidepost for finding Uranus."
"The green giant is only 4 degrees away from the moon. The cosmic odd-couple will appear about four degrees apart in the sky—equal to 8 full moons side-by-side."But EarthSky dismissed the claim as nonsense, pointing out that Uranus will not be anywhere near the moon in the sky on April 20 or May 29. On the contrary, the planet will be "about half a sky away" from the moon, according to EarthSky.
Snopes writes that the "green moon" image that accompanied the Facebook post was obtained from a previous 2010 blog post that had nothing to do with predictions of spectacular lunar events. The image, according to the fact-checking website, originated ultimately as a "doctored" photo that first appeared online in 2008.A list of astronomical events for 2016 provided by astronomy websites such as Sea and Sky include a "Blue Moon" on May 21, 2016, but no reference to a "green moon."
Snopes notes that the "green moon" rumor echoes a previous "pink moon" rumor that went viral on social media in 2014. The viral rumor predicted that a "full pink moon" would be visible in the skies around the world in mid-April, 2014.
The purveyors of the "full pink moon" social media rumor may have meant it as a joke, but it went viral very quickly. The only known reference to a "pink moon" comes from some Native American tribes who nickname the full moon occurring in April a "pink moon." The nickname is not a reference to the color of the moon, but the appearance of pink flowers at the time of the full moon in early spring.
[Image via Naive Cynic/Wikimedia Commons]