The month of June has already offered some spectacular stargazing events, including the rare appearance of Jupiter, and this week, we’re going to be treated to a particularly special full moon, also known as the strawberry moon.
Why Is It Called the Strawberry Moon?
Despite the cool-sounding name, it doesn’t mean the Earth’s only natural satellite is going to actually look like a plump, delicious strawberry. Sadly.
The moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth, as the sun and its face will be fully illuminated. This phenomenon was known by early native North American tribes as the “full strawberry moon,” as it signaled the time of year to gather ripening fruit. It also coincides with the peak of the strawberry harvesting season.
An old European name for this full moon is the “mead moon” or the “honey moon.” Mead is a drink created by fermenting honey mixed with water, sometimes with fruits, spices, grains, or hops. The tradition of calling the first month of marriage the “honeymoon” dates back to at least the 1500s and may very well be tied to this full moon, possibly because of the custom of marrying in June.
Europeans also called this the “rose moon,” probably because of the color of the full moon at this time of year. The orbit of the moon around the Earth is almost in the same plane as the orbit of the Earth around the sun.
When the sun appears highest in the sky near the summer solstice (June 21), the full moon opposite the sun generally appears lowest in the sky. This is especially evident for Europe’s higher latitudes, when the full moon nearest the summer solstice shines through more atmosphere than at other times of the year. This can give the full moon a reddish or rose color (for much the same reasons that a rising or setting sun appears red).
In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s known as an “oak moon,” “cold moon,” or “long night moon.”
What’s the Best Time to See It?
In the Eastern time zone of the United States, it happened at 4:31 a.m. on Monday, June 17. For the Washington, DC area, the highest the full moon will reach in the sky will be only 29.1 degrees above the horizon (at 1:01 a.m.), making this the lowest full moon of the year. On the West Coast with Pacific time, the peak was at 1:31 a.m. On the other side of the globe, New Delhi, India, will see peak time of 2 p.m. local time. Check your location here to find the best time to see it.
“The moon will appear full for about three days around this time, from Saturday night through Tuesday morning,” said NASA’s Gordon Johnston. This means you will have plenty of time to see it.
Whilst looking up, you might notice a bright object floating just above the moon. That will be not a star, but Jupiter. The gas giant made its closest approach to Earth only a few days ago, and it’s still visibly prominent in the night sky — even inexpensive binoculars should provide pretty impressive results.