Strawberry super-moon brightens skies

On Tuesday (6/14/22) night, sky watchers witnessed the first of three summer super-moons. A super-moon occurs when a full moon also happens to be at its closest distance to Earth in its orbit, known as perigee. Super-moons appear brighter and larger to us on Earth, providing spectacular nighttime gazing if skies are clear.

The moon appeared full starting Sunday (6/12/22) night but technically reached full illumination Tuesday at 7:52 a.m. Eastern. At around 7:24 p.m. Tuesday (6/14/22), the moon was close enough to our Earth to be a super-moon. It came within 222,238 miles of Earth (about 16,000 miles closer than its average distance) and could be about 7% larger and 15% brighter than a regular full moon.

While the criteria for a super-moon was met on Tuesday, the moon appeared full and bright in the night sky Monday through Wednesday.

During the June month’s full moon was also the lowest full moon of the year, hovering only 23.3 degrees above the horizon Wednesday at 1:56 a.m. Eastern, according to NASA. Binoculars, a telescope or an excellent camera helped to spot craters and mountains on the lunar surface.

While the moon appeared larger and brighter, it also accentuated low and high tides on Earth. Research suggests that decades of super-moons have been shown to heighten erosion risk on sandy beaches.

June’s full moon is commonly known as the “strawberry” moon, a name given by the Algonquin Native American tribe in the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada and describing the short strawberry harvesting season in the region. European names include honey moon and rose moon, referring to honey harvesting and roses blooming during that time.

Although super-moons are not exceedingly rare, they do not occur every month. A full moon happens every 29.5 days, while the moon hits perigee every 27 days, overlapping occasionally. June’s super-moon follows another one in May. Next month’s full moon, known as the Buck Moon, will occur July 13 and will also be a super-moon. The moon will be within 222,089 miles of Earth, making this the closest super-moon of the year. August’s super-moon will occur around the 12th.

The strawberry super-moon was only one exciting celestial event occurring in June. The summer solstice on June 21 marked the astronomical end of spring and start of summer. On June 24, before dawn, sky watchers could also see Earth’s five closest planetary neighbors in a row for the first time in 18 years.