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Why full moon on June 12-13 is called a Honey Moon

Image credit: Bruce Fingerwood

Tonight for June 12, 2014

The June 12-13, 2014 full moon comes roughly one week before the June solstice. Like every full moon, the June full moon has its own special quality. The June full moon travels low as seen from the N. Hemisphere (and high as seen from the S. 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.

In this hemisphere, the June full moon is sometimes called a Honey Moon, possibly because it never gets very high in the sky. When we gaze toward this full moon throughout the night tonight, we are seeing it through more of Earth’s atmosphere than when the moon is overhead. The atmosphere reddens its color. In the case of the June full moon, that might mean that the light of the full moon will look more red or orange or yellow to you than usual. And, although full moon names are part of folklore and thus their origins are not always certain, the reddened light of the June full moon might be the origin of the name Honey Moon.

So this full moon rides especially low for us in this hemisphere, because it comes so near the solstice. Why? Simply because the full moon, by definition, is 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 solstice 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 winter now – tonight’s moon will mimic the summer sun, arcing high in the heavens. South of the Antarctic Circle, the moon will simulate the midnight sun – up all hours around the clock.

When does Friday the 13th have a full moon?

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Day and night sides of Earth at the instant of the June 2014 full moon (2014 June 13 at   4:11 Universal Time)

Day and night sides of Earth at the instant of the June 2014 full moon (2014 June 13 at 4:11 Universal Time)

The moon turns astronomically full – resides most directly opposite the sun for the month – on June 13, at 4:11 Universal Time. At U.S. time zones, that means the moon will turn full on Friday, June 13 at 12:11 a.m. EDT, but on Thursday, June 12 at 11:11 p.m. CDT, 10:11 p.m. MDT or 9:11 p.m. PDT.

This year’s June solstice falls on June 21, at 10:51 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 2014, the moon is full on June 13 at 4:11 UTC. That is the evening of June 12 for North American time zones. This is the closest full moon to the N. Hemisphere’s summer solstice, and thus, for us in this hemisphere, the full moon takes a low path across the sky. Meanwhile, in the S. Hemisphere, notice the high path of the full moon of June.

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