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Strawberry Moon June 16, 2011

Posted by dakotabiker in Space Stuff.
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Another monthly lunar update from my friend and co-worker Gordon:

The next full Moon is on Wednesday afternoon, June 15, 2011.  The Moon will appear full for about 3 days centered on 4:14 pm EDT on Wednesday (i.e., from Tuesday morning through Friday morning).  

This full Moon is known as the Strawberry Moon, a name universal to just about every Algonquin tribe.  The name comes from the relatively short season in June for harvesting strawberries in northeastern North America.  

Europeans call the June full Moon the Rose Moon. Because the orbit of the Moon around the Earth is almost in the same plane as the orbit of the Earth around the Sun (only about 5 degrees off), near the summer solstice when the Sun appears highest in the sky at noon, the full Moon will always appear lowest in the sky at midnight.  Some believe the name Rose Moon comes from the color the Moon can get because, particularly for European nations at the higher latitudes, the full Moon is low in the sky and shining through more atmosphere that at other times of the year.  

More recently, a new tribe has arisen, geographically scattered but mostly living in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States.  This tribe’s language is primarily English, but with a liberal smattering of acronyms and Hawaiian phrases.  Comprised of people from all backgrounds, this tribe sports a pirate flag as its emblem and is devoted to the study of the Moon.  This tribe calls June’s full Moon the LRO Moon, in honor of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft they placed in orbit around the Moon two years ago, on June 23, 2009.  

There is a total eclipse of the Moon associated with this full Moon, but this eclipse will not be visible from North America.  LRO, currently orbiting the Moon, relies on sunlight to keep warm and solar power to operate.  This will be the longest eclipse that LRO will encounter in its expected life.  LRO will have to preheat most of its systems, put an extra charge on the batteries, and leave most of the science instruments off in order to get through this long eclipse without getting too cold or running low on power.  Only the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment will remain on, and we expect to get unique information about the surface of the Moon from watching how key locations cool down as the Earth blocks the Sun.  

As usual, the suitable celebratory activities and attire (e.g., Hawaiian shirts, bow ties) are encouraged in honor of the full Moon.

As to other celestial events between now and the next full Moon:

The night of the full Moon is also the peak of the June Lyrids, a relatively minor and variable meteor shower.  With the full Moon in the sky it will be difficult to see these meteors (if there are many of them this year).  

Tuesday, June 21, 2011, is the summer solstice, the day with the longest period of sunlight and the astronomical start of summer.  Because the solar days this time of year are slightly longer than 24 hours, the earliest sunrises occur before the Solstice and the latest sunsets occur after the solstice.  For NASA Headquarters, rounded off to the minute, the earliest time of sunrise is 5:42 am EDT from this past Tuesday, June 7, 2011, through the morning of the Solstice, Tuesday, June 21, 2011.  Rounded off to the minute, the latest time of sunset will be 8:37 pm EDT from Thursday, June 23, 2011 to Sunday, July 3, 2011.  

Back in late May, Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter all appeared clustered together in the morning sky, while Saturn was up pretty much all night.  By late June and early July, Saturn is gradually shifting more towards the evening sky, Jupiter and Mars are appearing higher in the morning sky, Venus is low in the morning sky and soon will pretty much disappear from view in glow of the Sun, and Mercury will switch to low in the evening sky.  

In the morning of Sunday, June 26, 2011, the waning crescent Moon will appear to the upper left of bright Jupiter in the eastern sky.   For the Washington, DC area, Jupiter rises around 2:20 am.

Before dawn on Tuesday, June 28, 2011, the waning crescent Moon will appear to the upper right of Mars low in east-northeast.  For the Washington, DC area, Mars rises around 3:45 am.

The next day, in the glow of dawn on Wednesday, June 29, 2011, the even thinner waning crescent Moon will appear to the upper right of bright Venus (about halfway between Venus and Mars) very low in east-northeast.  For the Washington, DC area, Venus rises around 4:50 am, less than an hour before sunrise.

Even harder to see in the glow just before dawn, on Thursday, June 30, 2011, the Moon will be just to the lower left of bright Venus, very close to the horizon in the east-northeast.

Friday, July 1, 2011, is the new Moon and a partial solar eclipse.  For this eclipse the shadow of the Moon almost misses the Earth.  The eclipse will only be visible from a part of the Antarctic Ocean south of Africa.  It may be an eclipse that nobody sees.  

On Saturday, July 2, 2011, especially with a pair of binoculars, you may be able to see Mercury to the upper right of the faint crescent Moon.  You would need to look close to the horizon in the north-northwest about 1/2-hour after sunset (around 9:10 pm EDT in the Washington, DC area, as the Moon will set by about 9:30 pm).  The glow of sunset will likely make this difficult to see without binoculars.  

On Monday, July 4, 2011, at about 11 am EDT, the Earth will be aphelion, the point in its orbit where it is farthest from the Sun.  In general, the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere are milder than they are in the Southern hemisphere, because northern summer occurs when the Earth is farther from the Sun, while northern winter occurs when the Earth is closer to the Sun.  

In the evening on Thursday, July 7, 2011, the waxing quarter Moon will appear to the lower left of Saturn.  For the Washington, DC area, this pair will start the evening high in the sky and set a little after midnight.  

The full Moon after next will be on Friday, July 15, 2011.