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Strawberry Moon from dusk till dawn in early June 2015

Image credit: Bruce Fingerwood

Tonight for June 1, 2015

In North America, we commonly call the June full moon the Strawberry Moon. The June full moon travels low as seen from the Northern Hemisphere (and high as seen from the Southern Hemisphere) as it journeys from east to west across the sky throughout the night. In fact, the June full moon mimics the path of the December sun.

So this full moon rides especially low for us in the Northern hemisphere, because it comes so near the June summer solstice. Why? Simply because the full moon, by definition, lies opposite – or nearly opposite – the sun. Sun rides high in summer … full moon rides low. At every full moon, the moon stands more or less opposite the sun in our sky. That’s why the moon looks full.

Around the world tonight, the moon will rise around sunset, climb to its highest point around midnight and set around sunrise. As seen from both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, the moon – like the December sun – will rise far south of due east and set far south of due west. North of the Arctic Circle, tonight’s moon – like the winter sun – will be too far south to climb above the horizon.

Meanwhile, in the Southern Hemisphere – where it’s close to their June winter solstice – tonight’s moon will mimic the December sun, arcing high in the heavens. South of the Antarctic Circle, the moon will simulate the midnight sun – up all hours around the clock.

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The moon may appear full to the eye for several nights in a row, but the full moon actually takes place a well-defined instant. The moon turns astronomically full – resides most directly opposite the sun for the month – on June 2, at 16:19 Universal Time. At U.S. time zones, that means the moon will turn full on Tuesday, June 2 at 12:19 p.m. EDT, 11:19 a.m. CDT, 10:11 p.m. MDT or 19:19 p.m. PDT. We in North America won’t see the moon at the instant of the June 2015 full moon in North America because we’re not on the nighttime of Earth at that juncture.

Day and night sides of Earth at instant of June 2015 full moon

Day and night sides of Earth at the instant of the June 2015 full moon (2015 June 2 at 16:19 Universal Time).

Day and night sides of Earth at the instant of the June 2015 full moon (2015 June 2 at 16:19 Universal Time).

This year’s June solstice falls on June 21, at 16:38 Universal Time. It’s the summer solstice for the Northern Hemisphere and winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. This solstice is also called the northern solstice, because the sun reaches its northernmost point for the year for all of us on this special day.

Bottom line: In 2015, the moon is full on June 2 at 16:19 UTC. For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the full moon takes a low path across the sky. Meanwhile, in the Southern Hemisphere, notice the high path of the full moon of June.

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