As the sun sinks beneath the horizon on the longest day of the year on the evening of Monday June 20, it will be worth looking up.
For the first time since 1967 the summer solstice coincides with a rare ‘strawberry’ moon and, clouds willing, the 17 hours of sunlight will give way to a bright moonlit sky.
Despite the name, the moon will not appear pink or red, although it may glow a warm amber. The romantic label was coined by the Algonquin tribes of North America who believed June’s full moon signalled the beginning of the strawberry picking season.
Other names for the phenomenon in the Northern Hemisphere include Rose Moon, the Hot Moon, and the Honey Moon, while in the Southern Hemisphere it is known as the Long Night Moon.
“Having a full moon land smack on the solstice is a truly rare event,” said astronomer Bob Mernan of Farmer’s Almanac.
“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.”
Around 25,000 people are expected to gather at Stonehenge in Wiltshire to celebrate the solstice, which comes from the Latin solstitium meaning “sun stands still”
The day is considered to be sacred by many pagans around the world who celebrate the solstice among their yearly holidays and sometimes call he festival Litha, a term dating back to the Venerable Bede for the months of June and July.
English Heritage, which is charging people to park atStonehenge for the first time this year, has asked revellers to respect the ancient monument.
“Stonehenge is an ancient prehistoric site which has been a place of worship and celebration at the time of the Summer Solstice for thousands of years,” said a spokesman.
“This important place is seen as many as a sacred site. Please respect it and please respect each other.”
The solstice occurs when the tilt of Earth’s semi-axis, in either northern or southern hemispheres, is most inclined toward the sun.
The Sun will rise at 4.45am and set at 1.34pm. After tonight the days begin to shorten in the northern hemisphere
Although the meeting of the strawberry moon and solstice has no more significance than an interesting astronomical alignment, it has been causing excitement amid astrologers.
“There is a lot of stuff that is lining up to make this moon quite potent,” said astrologer Timothy Halloran.
“There is an explosion of energy that will go on with this full moon.”
The last strawberry moon occurring on the solstice occurred on June 22 1967. If you miss Monday’s you’ll have to wait another 46 years before you can see the full moon on the summer solstice with the rare event not happening again until June 21, 2062.
LIVE! WATCH THE RARE SUMMER SOLSTICE FULL MOON!
Monday, June 20, at 8:00 PM EDT | 5:00 PM PDT | 00:00UTC (See your time zone).
Join The Old Farmer’s Almanac and Slooh to witness a rare event as the Full Moon rises on the same day as the Summer Solstice, an event which hasn’t occurred for nearly 70 years.
This show will be broadcast right to YOUR computer or mobile from our partner Slooh’s flagship observatory at the Institute of Astrophysics in the Canary Islands.
During the broadcast, Slooh host, Paul Cox will be joined by Almanac astronomer Bob Berman to discuss this rare astronomical combination, including why it’s been so long since the last one, when such a combination is mathematically predicted to happen every 15 years. “Having a full moon land smack on the solstice is a truly rare event,” says Berman. “We probably won’t push people off pyramids like the Mayans did, but Slooh will very much celebrate this extraordinary day of light with fascinating factoids and amazing live telescope feeds.”
Editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac Janice Stillman will dive into the Almanac’s archives to explore the importance of the solstice as a seasonal celebration in cultures across the world and throughout history.
CLICK BELOW TO WATCH THE SOLSTICE FULL MOON SHOW ON JUNE 20!
You can go to Slooh.com to join and watch this live broadcast, snap and share your own photos during the event, chat with audience members and interact with the hosts, and personally control Slooh’s telescopes.
For more information, read Bob Berman’s column about the Solstice Full Moon here.
WHEN IS THE SUMMER SOLSTICE?
In 2016, the solstice falls on June 20 at 6:34 p.m. EDT. This is the “summer” solstice in the Northern Hemisphere.
The timing of the solstice depends on when the Sun reaches its northernmost point of the equator.
WHAT IS THE SUMMER SOLSTICE?
The word solstice is from the Latin solstitium, from sol (sun) andstitium (to stop), reflecting the fact that the Sun appears to stop at this time (and again at the winter solstice).
In temperate regions, we notice that the Sun is higher in the sky throughout the day, and its rays strike Earth at a more direct angle, causing the efficient warming we call summer.
This summer solstice is the day with the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. See our handy sunrise and sunset calculator for how many hours of sunlight you get in your location.
At the winter solstice, just the opposite occurs: The Sun is at its southernmost point and is low in the sky. Its rays hit the Northern Hemisphere at an oblique angle, creating the feeble winter sunlight.
WHY DOESN’T THE SUMMER SOLSTICE FALL ON THE SAME DATE EACH YEAR?
The summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere ranges in date from June 20 to 22. This occurs in part because of the difference between the Gregorian calendar system, which normally has 365 days, and the tropical year (how long it takes Earth to orbit the Sun once), which has about 365.242199 days. To compensate for the missing fraction of days, the Gregorian calendar adds a leap day about every 4 years, which makes the date for summer jump backward. However, the date also changes because of other influences, such as the gravitational pull from the Moon and planets and the slight wobble in Earth’s rotation.
DID YOU KNOW?
Question: Why isn’t the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, also the hottest day of the year?
Answer: Earth’s atmosphere, land, and oceans absorb part of the incoming energy from the Sun and store it, releasing it back as heat at various rates. Water is slower to heat (or cool) than air or land. At the summer solstice, the Northern Hemisphere receives the most energy (highest intensity) from the Sun due to the angle of sunlight and day length. However, the land and oceans are still relatively cool, due to spring’s temperatures, so the maximum heating effect on air temperature is not felt just yet. Eventually, the land and, especially, oceans will release stored heat from the summer solstice back into the atmosphere. This usually results in the year’s hottest temperatures appearing in late July, August, or later, depending on latitude and other factors. This effect is called seasonal temperature lag.
Question: What is Midsummer Day (June 24)?
Answer: Around the time of the summer solstice, this day was the midpoint of the growing season, halfway between planting and harvest. Read more about the ancient Quarter Days!
SEASONS ON OTHER PLANETS
- Mercury has virtually no tilt (less than ⅓0th of a degree) relative to the plane of its orbit, and therefore does not experience true seasons.
- Uranus is tilted by almost 98 degrees and has seasons that last 21 years.
In Sweden, people celebrate the Summer Solstice by eating the first strawberries of the season.
In ancient Egypt, summer was the start of the new year. The rising of the star Sirius roughly coincided with the summer solstice and the annual flooding of the Nile River.
- Deep snow in winter, tall grain in summer.–Estonian proverb
- When the summer birds take their flight, goes the summer with them.
- If it rains on Midsummer’s Eve, the filbert crops will be spoiled.–Unknown
- One swallow never made a summer.
- Easterly winds from May 19 to the 21 indicate a dry summer.
- If there are many falling stars during a clear summer evening, expect thunder. If there are none, expect fine weather.