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Year’s smallest full moon on June 9

Today – June 9, 2017 – it’s the farthest full moon – and thereby the smallest full moon – of the year. We’ve heard it called the micro-moon or mini-moon. By the way, that bright “star” near tonight’s moon is actually the planet Saturn.

View larger. | At right, the August 29, 2015 supermoon at exactly the time (18.36 UT) when it was full. At left, the March 5, 2015 ‘micro-moon’ – smallest full moon of the year. Photos by Peter Lowenstein in Mutare, Zimbabwe.

This June full moon occurs less than one day after reaching lunar apogee, the moon’s farthest point in its monthly orbit. The near alignment of full moon and lunar apogee team up to give us the farthest and smallest full moon of the year.

One fortnight (or approximately two weeks) before this June 9 micro-moon, it was the closest new moon of the year on May 25, 2017. This new moon paired up quite closely with perigee, the moon’s nearest point in its monthly orbit, to usher in the closest new moon – and closest supermoon – of the year. The year’s farthest full moon on June 9, 2017 lies some 30 thousand miles (50 thousand km) farther from Earth than does the year’s closest new moon on May 25, 2017.

The micro-moon or mini-moon often returns about one month and 18 days later with each passing year, meaning that, in 2018, the year’s smallest full moon will come on July 27.

In 2019, the year’s smallest full moon will fall on September 14; and in 2020, the smallest full moon will occur on October 31. The micro-moon or mini-moon frequently recurs in periods of 14 lunar months (14 returns to full moon), a period of about one year and 48 days.

Image credit: NASA. The moon's orbit is closer to being a circle than the diagram suggests. The moon is closest to Earth in its orbit at perigee and farthest away at apogee.

Image via NASA

The crest of the moon’s full phase comes on June 9, 2017 at precisely 13:10 Universal Time.

Although the full moon occurs at the same instant all around the world, our clocks read differently in various time zones. In the United States, the moon turns exactly full on June 9, at 9:10 a.m. EDT, 8:10 a.m. CDT, at 7:10 a.m. MDT and 6:10 a.m. PST.

So in the Americas, the full moon happens during the daylight hours on June 9, when the sun is above our horizon and the moon is below it.

No matter where you live worldwide, look for the moon to appear plenty full on the night of June 9. As with any moon at the vicinity of full moon, it’ll light up the nighttime from early evening until dawn.

In North America, we often call the June full moon by the Strawberry Moon; and more generally in the Northern Hemisphere, the June full moon goes by the appellation of Rose Moon or Honey Moon.

But in recent years, we’ve also heard the term micro-moon to describe the year’s smallest full moon. It’s not a name (like Strawberry Moon) tied to folklore. It’s not bound to a particular month or season.

It’s just a modern term to describe the year’s smallest moon.

Image via the US Naval Observatory. Day and night sides of Earth at the instant of the June 2017 full moon (2017 June 9 at 13:10 Universal Time). The shadow line at left depicts sunrise June 9 and the shadow line at right represents sunset June 9.

Like most astronomers, we at EarthSky used to call the year’s smallest full moon an apogee full moon.

The terms mini-moon and micro-moon stem from popular culture. They roll off the tongue more easily than apogee full moon. As some indication of the appellation’s growing popularity, we’ve found that the NASA Astronomy Photo of the Day and timeanddate.org sites both like to call the year’s smallest full moon a micro-moon.

In many respects, the micro-moon is the antithesis of a supermoon. The micro-moon, or the full moon aligning with apogee, is the polar opposite of a full moon supermoon, the full moon coinciding with perigee.

Fourmilab’s lunar perigee and apogee calculator

The photo contrasts the Micro Moon of April 2007 at the right to the supermoon (perigee full moon) of October 2007 on the left. View larger

View larger | Supermoon versus micro-moon in the year 2007, via Wikimedia Commons.

Every month for the next seven lunar months, the full moon will come closer and closer to Earth until the full moon finally coincides with perigee (instead of apogee) on January 2, 2018, to present the closest and largest full moon (plus the closest and largest supermoon) of 2018. Then seven lunar months after the closest and largest full moon supermoon on January 2, 2018, it’ll be the smallest full moon micro-moon all over again on July 27, 2018.

But for now, enjoy the year’s smallest full moon near the planet Saturn on June 9, 2017!

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The moon looks full for several days around full moon.  William Vann caught this rising almost-full moon on March 4, 2015.

The moon looks full for several days around full moon. William Vann submitted this shot in 2015.

Bottom line: The micro-moon or mini-moon – smallest full moon of 2017 – comes on June 9. It lies about 30,000 miles (50,000 km) farther away from Earth than does the new moon supermoon of May 25, 2017.

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Bruce McClure

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