A strawberry moon will appear in the sky coinciding with the summer solstice on June 20, 2016, at 6:34 p.m. EDT. It will happen after 15 to 17 hours of sunlight, depending on locale. The sun will reach a “standstill” at its northernmost point, not angling north or south, but abiding by the Tropic of Cancer before doing a pirouette and heading south again.
What one can expect is a “moon illusion” which scientists ascribe to a low-hanging moon looking unnaturally large when it beams through trees, buildings and other foreground objects. A low-hanging strawberry moon is actually no wider than any other moon but the human brain can see it differently, and the best time will be at moonrise.
The strawberry coinage is attributed to the Algonquin tribes of North America that treated June’s full moon as ushering in the strawberry picking season. Rather than being strawberry-colored, the moon retains its customary amber.
Aside from “strawberry moon,” other names for Earth’s satellite during this special occasion include “hot moon,” “honey moon,” or “full rose moon,” more commonly used in Europe. The “honey moon” designation comes from being close to the horizon in June, making its amber face appear larger. Some people simply refer to it as the “long night moon.” The Chinese call it the “lotus moon.”
Astronomer Bob Mernan of Farmer’s Almanac, expounds on the strawberry moon twinned with another quirk of nature.
“Having a full moon land smack on the solstice is a truly rare event. By landing exactly on the solstice, this Full Moon doesn’t just rise as the Sun sets but is opposite the Sun in all other ways too. The Sun gets super high so this Moon must be super-low. This forces its light through thicker air, which also tends to be humid this time of year, and the combination typically makes it amber coloured. This is the true Honey Moon.”
Meanwhile, Slooh will team up with the Farmer’s Almanac in a live broadcast of the summer-solstice-and-strawberry-moon event from the Institute of Astrophysics observatory in the Canary Islands. Interested parties are encouraged to view it through Slooh or simply go outside and look up at the night sky.
Because of a cloud forecast over their areas for the first night of summer, stargazers from western New York to Missouri may prefer to do a Sunday viewing instead of Monday. Summer officially begins at 6:34 p.m. EDT on Monday.
According to Tech Times, EarthSky’s Bruce McClure explained the phenomenon further.
“Reliably, the phases of the moon recur on or near the same calendar dates every 19 years. It’s the ‘or near’ that causes the full moon to miss the solstice on that 19th year, sometimes. Nineteen years from this year’s solstice — on June 20, 2035 — the full moon will not fall on the same date as the June solstice. It’ll be another near miss, with the full moon falling on June 20, 2035, and the solstice arriving one day later.
There appears to be a disagreement among online scribes as to when exactly the last strawberry moon coincided with the solstice.
Accuweather makes the following assertion about the last strawberry moon/summer solstice tandem.
“The last time that there was a full moon on the same day as the summer solstice was back in June of 1967, according to EarthSky.”
Treehugger, however, goes beyond 49 years to the last strawberry moon/summer solstice co-event.
“This year the heavenly bodies seem to have conspired to sweeten the pot with an event we haven’t seen in 70 years. The summer solstice isn’t a rare event, a full moon even less so.”
Indian Country offers a compromise on when the strawberry moon appeared last during a summer solstice.
“The two phenomenon — summer solstice and the full moon — have not occurred on the same day since 1967, according to Earthsky.org. Moreover, it will be a so-called strawberry moon, which last coincided with the summer solstice in 1948, The Old Farmer’s Almanac tells us.”
The downside to missing Monday’s full moon, is a wait of another 46 years before you get the chance to see it during the summer solstice. The strawberry moon won’t drop by again for this mating until June 21, 2062.
[Image via Shutterstock]