What is a Strawberry Moon?
The June full moon isn't just a supermoon, it's a super strawberry moon! Here's what to look for in the sky on Thursday, June 24.
You already know that Sunday, June 20 was the summer solstice, and marked Father’s Day as well as the official start of summer. Well, get ready for the first full moon of summer, the strawberry moon! Our gorgeous celestial neighbor will be visible in the sky just after sunset this Thursday, June 24. As an added bonus, it’s also the fourth and final supermoon of 2021. That means your social media feeds will be full of moon pictures of varying quality. Instead of trying to photograph it with your crummy phone camera, we recommend just getting outside whenever dusk falls in your location and photographing it with your eyes instead. Look to the East and you’re sure to see some truly magical super strawberry moon goodness. Bring on summer!
What is a strawberry moon?
The name “strawberry moon” comes from Indigenous people in North America, specifically the Algonquin tribes. The Farmer’s Almanac started publishing the Indigenous names for the different full moons of the year in the 1930s. As the first full moon of the summer, the June full moon was called the strawberry moon, in reference to the short strawberry season in the northeast. When the moon is full, it’s time to harvest those delicious berries. Other names for the June full moon in North America include the berries ripen moon, the hot moon, and the egg laying moon. In Europe, the June moon was sometimes referred to as the mead moon or the honey moon.
So it’s not red?
The moon won’t be red exactly, but it could definitely be said to have a pinkish hue, at least when it is first rising. Because it will be near the horizon, the light reflected off the moon will have to travel longer to get to our eyes, compared to when it is directly above us, and will therefore have to travel through more of the Earth’s atmosphere. Red light tends to travel through the atmosphere more easily, which is why sunsets and sunrises are so red, orange, and pink, and why the strawberry moon will look orange or pink when it is first rising. Pollution, dust, and other environmental factors can also influence the colour we perceive the moon to be. Check out fascinating moon mysteries scientists are still trying to figure out.
OK, but what’s a supermoon?
There is no accepted scientific definition for what the moon has to do to qualify as a supermoon. Generally, however, supermoons occur when the moon is full and at perigee, the closest point in its orbit to the Earth. The original definition of a supermoon stated that to be considered super, the moon had to be within 90 per cent of perigee, or 361,766 kilometres. That’s why there are usually several supermoons per year. The moon’s orbit around the Earth is elliptical, which is why it appears at different sizes in our sky.
How to see the strawberry moon this week
Thanks to the recent summer solstice (the longest day of the year) and the fact that the sun and moon orbit on roughly the same plane, the strawberry moon will be particularly low, large, and bright this Thursday, June 24. The Moon will be closer to the horizon, making it appear larger. The fact that it’s in perigee will also add to the luminous effect.
To see the super strawberry moon, you’ll want to get somewhere high up with a good view low to the horizon, facing East. Sunset should be between 8 and 8:30 p.m. depending on where you live in North America, and the moonrise will occur about 20 minutes after that.
If you want to see it before then, the moon will actually be 100 per cent full (i.e. fully illuminated by the sun) at 6:40 p.m. UTC on Thursday, June 24. You can watch it rise over Rome, Italy through the live stream hosted by the Virtual Telescope Project starting at 7:00 p.m. UTC before you head outside later in the evening. Taking some strawberries along with you as a moon-gazing snack is, of course, highly encouraged. Happy summer, everybody!
Next, check out the best stargazing spots across Canada.