Strawberry Solstice Moon of June 2024 Shines Tonight for Summer Stargazers (Video)

This week sees a relative lack of bright planets in our evening sky. By the end of the month there will be only one specimen left, Mercury, but even then you can only glimpse this rocky world, very low on the west-northwest horizon, 30 to 45 minutes after sunset. Then you’ll have to wait until after the witching hour of midnight before you can see another celestial wanderer: Saturn.

That said, let’s turn our attention to two celestial bodies that are easily visible even from bright cities during the evening hours this week. One is our closest neighbor in space, while the other is a familiar pattern of stars.

The first, of course, is the moon, which will become full on the first full day of summer, June 21. The moment when the moon “officially” becomes full will come at 9:08 PM Eastern Time that evening; the moon will be above the horizon for most eastern states, although it has yet to rise for much of the central and western US. No problem, because for a day or two either side of June 21, the moon will appear nearly full to most casual observers.

a bright full moon rises over the ocean and reflects on the surface of the water

a bright full moon rises over the ocean and reflects on the surface of the water

Native American tribes from a few hundred years ago kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which they occurred. According to our list of full moon namesJune’s full moon was traditionally known by every Algonquin tribe as the “Strawberry Moon,” probably because the strawberry picking season peaks during this month. Europeans called it the Pink Moon.

Want to take pictures of tonight’s full moon? Be sure to check out our guide to photographing the moon. If you need imaging equipment, consider our best cameras for astrophotography and the best lenses for astrophotography to ensure you’re ready for the next solar eclipse.

And if you’re looking for new binoculars or a telescope to observe the moon, check out our guides to the best binoculars and best telescopes.

Related: Full Moon June 2024: The Strawberry Moon follows the solstice

Another June moon name


A Celestron telescope on a white backgroundA Celestron telescope on a white background

A Celestron telescope on a white background

Looking for a telescope to see the full moon up close? We recommend the Celestron Astro Fi 102 as the top choice in our best telescope for beginners guide.

Based solely on astronomical geometry, writes the British astronomy popularist Guy Ottewell in his yearbook Astronomical calendar, June’s full moon has sometimes been called the “Honey Moon.” The sun is at its greatest distance north of the celestial equator in June, and the full moon (which is almost opposite to the sun in the sky) is therefore at its greatest distance south of the celestial equator. The June full moon can therefore be seen particularly low in the southern sky. Objects seen low in the sky are affected by the reddening properties of the atmosphere.

As a result, the full moon in June usually has a beautiful golden appearance, just like good honey.

There are many more effects of atmospheric redness. The most obvious is the rising or setting sun. When sunlight penetrates through a great thickness of the atmosphere, most of the blue light is absorbed and scattered; the red light comes through preferably. The reddening of stars when seen close to the horizon is less obvious to the casual observer. Finally, the red color of the moon during a total lunar eclipse is due to the fact that sunlight turns red as it passes through the Earth’s atmosphere and is then bent by refraction into the Earth’s shadow.

June 2024 night skyJune 2024 night sky

June 2024 night sky

Big Dipper or Bear?

During this week, as the sky darkens enough to see stars, we can look far into the northwestern sky and see the seven stars that make up the Big Dipper. At this time of year the Dipper is positioned sideways, with the bowl pointing downwards and the handle straight up.

Interestingly, scientists are quite certain that the oldest of our star groups dates back to the Mesopotamian peoples of five or more millennia ago. In fact, the creatures from which the ancient Western constellations were made are similar to those in the Bible. And there is evidence that some are much older. The fact that the seven stars of the Big Dipper formed a bear to the Native Americans and to the cultures of the Old World and Siberia suggests that our Ursa Major is a piece of Stone Age culture at least 8,000 to 12,000 years old. That is the approximate era of the last migration from Siberia to North America across the Bering Strait.

And yet, strangely enough, the Big Dipper itself has been a source of frustration for some constellation historians: who actually came up with this name?

In Britain it is better known as the team. But as Dipper, it’s strictly an American phenomenon; this heavenly ‘drinking gourd’ was often mentioned in books from the mid-19th century, but not earlier. It’s a shame that the Little Dipper is so much fainter and harder to see compared to the Big Dipper, because – at least to my eyes – it looks more like a real spoon, like one that might be used to scoop up soup. The Big Dipper looks more like a pan.

Car in the air

To much of the world, this pattern is, if not a bear, then at least some kind of chariot, chariot, or other wheeled vehicle. In Shakespeare’s King Henry IV, the Great Bear is referred to as Charles’ Wain (a chariot is defined as a large open farm cart). Here is how it is translated from an astronomical passage in Homer’s Iliad:

In it he tilled the earth and the
heavens and the sea.

The tireless sun and the full moon,
And all the constellations with which the
The heavens are crowned.

The Pleiades, the Hyades, the power
of Orion

And the Bear, which they also call the Wain.
Who turns there and looks at Orion,
But is the only one unwashed by Ocean’s salty bath.

These words date back to about 700 BC, so we can see how old this seven-star asterism as a chariot is.

Joe Rao is an instructor and guest lecturer in New York Hayden Planetarium. He prescribes on astronomy Natural history magazinethe Farmer’s almanac and other publications.

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