I’ll spend some words on this photo, taken yesterday around midnight, when the moon was full and big and very bright in the sky. For a moment I thought I was wearing my colored sunglasses, because the moon was of a very vivid orangey-pink that looked utterly suggestive and unreal. The beauty of the scene felt eerie somehow, especially at midnight and with bird silhouettes appearing now and then against the lunar surface. It immediately made me think of Nick Drake’s song “Pink Moon”, from his last album bearing the same title.
Saw it written and I saw it say
Pink moon is on its way
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get ye all
According to superstition, a pink moon is an extraordinary and ominous symbol with catastrophic connotations and, often, connected with death. Thinking about Drake’s song, the fact the songwriter died shortly after “Pink Moon” was composed, adds a supernatural and mysterious — and tragic — aura to it. In reality, a pink moon is not an extraordinary occurrence. The pink color is merely the result of the physical phenomenon of light scattering. Light passing through the atmosphere meets gas molecules present in the air; part of the light is absorbed and reflected. When the moon is lower over the horizon, light has to travel further to reach the spectator’s eyes. By the time light reaches the eyes, only the longer wavelengths, corresponding to orange and red, make it through, while shorter wavelengths are scattered. That’s why one only sees the orange or red color. Whether this explanation is more or less poetic than the frightening one belonging to tradition depends, I guess, on personal inclinations.