June’s full moon, known as the Strawberry Moon, will come the same day the moon reaches the closest point in its orbit around the Earth, called perigee, creating a “supermoon” on June 14 at 7:51 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time in New York (1152 UTC) according to the U.S. Naval Observatory (opens in new tab).
For observers on the east coast of North and South America, the moon will be below the horizon when it is officially full, as the moon sets at 5:09 a.m. in New York, 6:21 a.m. in Miami, and 6:32 a.m. in Rio de Janeiro (all times are local).
The moon reaches perigee at 7:23 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on June 14 according to the sky-watching site In-the-sky.org (opens in new tab). At perigee, the moon appears about 10 percent larger than average — a “supermoon.” On average the angular diameter of the moon is about 31 arcminutes — a bit more than half of one degree. One degree is about the size of a pinky finger held at arm’s length, and an arcminute is 1/60th of that. The “supermoon” is about 33.5 arcminutes. Even though the name sounds like it should be really large, it takes a very observant skywatcher to tell the difference.
The moon appears larger because its orbit is an ellipse rather than a perfect circle. At perigee, the moon will be 222,098 miles or 357,432 kilometers from Earth, per heavens-above.com (opens in new tab) calculations. The average distance between the moon and Earth is 240,000 miles or 384,400 kilometers, and it can be as large as 252,500 miles (405,000 kilometers).
The full moon occurs when the moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun, and as a result, we see the entire face of the moon illuminated. Occasionally the moon’s orbit carries it within the shadow of the Earth, producing an eclipse, as happened on May 15-16.
The full moon, during the Northern Hemisphere summer, tends to be lower in the sky than at other times of the year. The moon roughly tracks the ecliptic, the plane of the Earth’s orbit projected on the sky. If one imagines the sky as a huge sphere, with Earth’s latitude and longitude lines projected on it, the ecliptic makes a circle that’s tilted with respect to the celestial equator.
The ecliptic also marks the path of the sun against the background stars. In summer the sun is on the ecliptic high above the celestial equator, so the day starts early and ends late. The moon is on the opposite side — so it’s well below the celestial equator. Thus the moon rises late in the evening and sets early in the morning.
In the Southern Hemisphere, the situation is reversed. Since winter there starts in June, the sun is low in the sky and the moon is higher up. So if you are watching the full moon in Melbourne (which occurs at 9:51 p.m. local time on June 14), you will see it rise that evening at 4:40 p.m. and set the next morning (June 15) at 8:18 a.m. local time. It will be 78 degrees above the horizon when it reaches its highest point, known as crossing the meridian, right above the northern horizon, at 12:26 a.m. on June 15. In New York City, the moon rises at 9:15 p.m. and crosses the meridian at 1:43 a.m. on June 15, only 22 degrees above the southern horizon.
One effect is that in the summer months (June through September in the Northern Hemisphere, and December through March in the Southern Hemisphere) full moons tend to look larger and more photogenic; being closer to the horizon the moon’s light has to pass through more air, making it tint orange or red, and there are objects one can see in the same frame (trees and buildings, for example) that give it scale.
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Saturn is the first of the naked eye planets to rise; in New York City it comes up at about midnight local time on the night of June 14-15 in New York. In the constellation Capricornus, by sunrise, it is 34 degrees high in the south. In Melbourne, the planet rises earlier in the evening, at 9:54 p.m. on June 14, and by sunrise, on June 15 the planet is some 45 degrees high in the northeast.
Two days after the full moon on June 16 at 5:21 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, Mercury will be at its greatest western elongation, or the furthest it gets west of the sun in the sky. That makes the planet a “morning star” which rises at about 4:15 a.m. on June 16 in New York City. The sun rises soon afterward at 5:24 a.m., and by about 4:50 a.m., when the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon and in many cities, the streetlights start to turn off, the planet will be a mere 6 degrees high. Catching Mercury will require an unobstructed eastern horizon and clear weather.
Observers in southern latitudes will have an easier time. From Melbourne, on June 16 Mercury rises at 5:39 a.m., and the sun doesn’t rise until 7:34 a.m. local time. At 7:00 a.m. Mercury will be 14 degrees high in the northeast, a much easier target.
Venus, meanwhile, will also be a morning star. In the Northern Hemisphere, it will be above and to the right of Mercury, in the constellation Aries. For New York City, the planet rises at 3:39 a.m. and reaches an altitude of about 20 degrees by sunrise on June 14. Venus is bright enough that it stays visible even as the sky turns visibly light; a good exercise is to check how close to sunrise (which is at 5:24 a.m. on both June 14 and 15) one can still see the planet. As with Mercury, from Southern Hemisphere locations it will be higher in the sky; on June 14 the planet rises in Melbourne at 4:49 a.m. and a half-hour before sunrise is 22 degrees high.
Mars rises in New York at 2:04 a.m. local time on June 15, when the full moon will still be high in the sky. The Red Planet is in the constellation Pisces, the Fishes. As the Fishes are a faint group of stars, Mars will stand out, especially as the full moon tends to wash out fainter stars. By sunrise Mars is 31 degrees high in the southeast. In Melbourne Mars rises at a similar local time — 1:59 a.m. — but the angle the ecliptic makes with the horizon will be steeper; so by 7:00 a.m. Mars is 47 degrees in altitude above the northeastern horizon.
Jupiter rises in New York at 1:38 a.m. local time on June 15; by 3 a.m. it will be some 15 degrees high in the southeast, in the constellation Pisces. Jupiter will be above and to the right of Mars. Southern Hemisphere observers will see the planets “reversed” with Jupiter above and to the left of Mars. In Melbourne Jupiter rises at 1:13 a.m. on June 15 and by 3 a.m. it is about 20 degrees high in the northeast.
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The Summer Triangle is on full view by 10 p.m. in the evenings in mid-northern latitudes; Vega, the brightest star in Lyra, will be 45 degrees high in the East and below it will be Deneb and Altair with Deneb on the left, making a rough right-angle triangle with the hypotenuse connecting Altair and Deneb, pointing south.
Scorpio, meanwhile, is above the horizon in the southeast and above Scorpio is Ophiuchus, the legendary healer. Ophiuchus is a relatively faint constellation, but looking up from Scorpio in a dark-sky location, one can see the four stars that make a rectangle marking the body and the stars to each side that mark the constellations Serpens Cauda and Serpens Caput, the head and tail of the snake Ophiuchus, as a healer, is holding. With a full moon, it is more challenging to see as the moon is so bright it can wash out fainter stars. Above Ophiuchus is Hercules, with its “keystone” asterism, four medium-bright stars. Look to Hercules’ right and one encounters Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown, a distinct semicircle of stars with Alphecca, the brightest of them, marking the middle of it.
The Big Dipper is high in the northwest, facing downward, and one can follow the handle to Arcturus, which is in the high southwestern sky. If one keeps going one reaches Spica, the brightest star in Virgo, which is headed to the southwestern horizon.
From the mid-southern latitudes the moon will, by 10 p.m., appear quite high in the sky; about 50 degrees up from the latitudes of Cape Town or Melbourne. The moon will be in Sagittarius and just below Scorpius (which appears “upside-down” with the Scorpion’s claws facing north). Looking to the right (southwards) of Scorpius one will see Centaurus, which will be near the zenith. Centaurus contains Alpha Centauri, Earth’s nearest stellar neighbor. Just to the right of Alpha Centauri is the Southern Cross, the midline of which points to the South Celestial Pole. Further right and towards the horizon (west) is Carina and Vela, the Keel and the Sail of the legendary ship Argo which Jason sailed. Rising from the west is a winding line of stars making up the Hydra, which extends upwards between Vela and Virgo. Adjacent to the Hydra on the right is Crater, the Cup (the Hydra looks almost as though it is carrying the cup).
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How the Strawberry Moon got its name
The full moon of June is often called a Strawberry Moon, from the berries that appear in North America around that time of year (though modern varieties are available at other times as well). According to the Ontario Native Literacy Coalition, the Ojibwe treated the Strawberry Moon (Ode’miin Giizis) as a time for annual feasts, welcoming friends and family, and letting go of judgement.
By contrast the Cree called it Opiniyawiwipisim, the Egg Laying Moon, as it was when birds and waterfowl started laying eggs. In the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, June 24 will fall during the fifth lunar month, called Sweet Sedge Month, or Púyuè.
In the Southern Hemisphere, the Māori described the lunar month of Hongonui, which occurs from June to July: “Man is now extremely cold and kindles fires,” according to the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
Editor’s note: If you have an amazing night sky photo or video that you’d like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please contact editor in chief Tariq Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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