From The Sky This Week: The Moon waxes in the evening sky this week, passing through the summer constellations along the southern reaches of the ecliptic. Full Moon occurs on the 20th at 7:02 am Eastern Daylight Time. June’s Full Moon is popularly known as the Strawberry Moon, Rose Moon, Mead Moon, and Honey Moon. Each of these names not only indicates something indicative of the month’s flora, they also refer to the warm tone that the Moon can take on a warm June evening due to her southerly declination. Look for the Moon a few degrees north of the bright star Spica on the evening of the 14th. On the 16th and 17th she accompanies ruddy Mars across the sky, and on the 18th she passes just over two degrees north of yellow-hued Saturn.
The summer solstice falls on the 20th at 6:34 pm EDT. At this time the center of the Sun’s disc stands directly over the Tropic of Cancer north of the Hawai’ian Islands. While astronomers consider this to be the first day of summer, many traditional calendars observe it as “Midsummer’s Day”, commemorating the year’s longest day. Here in Washington Old Sol is above the horizon for 14 hours 54 minutes. Add in the times of morning and evening twilight and the duration of astronomical darkness amounts to a paltry 5 hours 8 minutes. The farther north you go, the less the duration of night becomes. Cities such as Paris and London never experience total darkness at this time of the year, and places north of the Arctic Circle see the Sun above the horizon for a full 24 hours. The Sun appears to hover near the Tropic of Cancer for a week or so around the time of the solstice, and most of us probably won’t notice the changing times of sunrise and sunset until well into July.