It’s time for another notable celestial event. Be sure to cast your gaze toward the sky tonight for 2018’s Strawberry Moon. And for the keen-eyed, there’s a heavenly bonus with a prominent appearance from Saturn.
So you’re not disappointed or confused, first things first: The moon isn’t going to actually look like a big round strawberry. That’s because in North America, the name comes from Algonquin tribes of Native Americans. This full moon was their sign to harvest wild strawberries, says the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
This has other names in other parts of the world. In Europe, you may hear it called the Honey Moon, Mead Moon or the Full Rose Moon. In the Southern Hemisphere, it can go by Oak Moon, Cold Moon or Long Night Moon, according to EarthSky.org.
In the United States, the peak of the full moon happens depending on your time zone. In the Eastern Time Zone, that will happen at 12:53 a.m. Thursday, June 28. Back on the West Coast, peak time will be 9:53 p.m. PT Wednesday, June 27.
All of South America, the bulk of North America, western Africa and Portugal will be under the cloak of darkness during the peak. The rest of Europe, eastern Africa, Asia and Australia will all be bathed in daylight at peak full moon.
If it’s night at your peak time, you might find the moon so bright in the dark sky that it will be hard to look at it for more than a few seconds.
But for the best impressions, take a look not at peak time but while the moon is still low on your horizon, says CNN meteorologist Judson Jones.
“My favorite time to watch the full moon is as it is rising over the eastern horizon. When the moon is low on the horizon, it allows you to capture the view with objects in the foreground, making the moon appear bigger,” Jones said.
“Say you are in the city, and you’re watching between a couple of buildings or over the skyline, it will make it feel that much bigger and give it more impact.” He adds that if you’re around the ocean, a lake or mountains, the perspective could be very pleasing.
Now, about that heavenly bonus. You may notice a bright object near the moon. That will be not a star, but Saturn.
The ringed planet will be in what’s called “opposition,” meaning it will be opposite the sun in Earth’s sky. You won’t be able to see those fabled rings unless you have a telescope, but just pay attention and with the naked eye, you’ll see the planet close to the Strawberry Moon.
Strawberry Moon events
There are places scattered across the USA that are hosting hikes and other viewing events if you’d like to share the moment with fellow space fans. A small sampling:
– Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest hosts a lake hike in Clermont, Kentucky.
– Cape St. George Light Museum hosts a sunset/moon viewing atop the lighthouse on St. George Island, Florida.
– Boulder County hosts an interactive presentation followed by a walk to Sandstone Park in Longmont, Colorado.
– Hamilton Gardens in Blairsville, Georgia, is the site of a Strawberry Moon concert.
You may want to check astronomy clubs and local parks for possible events in your area.
Or is it a Strawberry Moon after all?
Space and science are seldom simple things.
So while much of the planet is marking the Strawberry Moon in June, NASA designated that in May, as the last full moon of spring is traditionally the Strawberry Moon. In his blog, NASA’s Gordon Johnston says the June 27-28 full moon would be called the Buck, Thunder or Rose moon as the first full moon of summer.
But no matter what you call it or when you designate it, these moon viewings can be a powerful pull.
“A Strawberry Moon is no different than any other full moon. It doesn’t even look red, but it does remind us of a time when people marked the time by the lunar calendar, instead of their glowing electronic device,” Jones said.