Tonight – June 1, 2015 – the moon may appear full to you, but it’s actually a day away from full moon. Despite the lunar glare, you might be able to see the planet Saturn and the star Antares close to the moon tonight.
The moon appears full to the eye for several nights in a row, but the crest of the moon’s full phase takes place at a well-defined instant. The moon turns astronomically full – resides most directly opposite the sun for the month – on June 2, 2015 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 because we won’t be on the nighttime side of Earth as the moon is precisely full.
But – since the moon always rises around the time of sunset, and sets at sunrise, around the time of every full moon – everyone on Earth will enjoy a full-looking, round, bright moon in the sky on these early June, 2015 nights.
In North America, we will call this 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 will ride 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.
As seen from both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, the June full moon – like the December sun – will rise far south of due east and set far south of due west. North of the Arctic Circle, the June full 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 – the June full 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.
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.