You've seen a Harvest Moon, I bet — a deep orange moonrise that occurs in late summer and early fall. It's stunning, and adds an autumnal flair to your nights. But what about a Strawberry Moon? That's the name for the astronomical phenomenon which will occur tonight, June 20. And, if you are wondering when the next Strawberry Moon is, I have some answers.
If you look into the sky, you'll see that the full moon will be tinged with a faint golden color. During this time of year, the moon hangs low in its orbit, bringing it closer to Earth. The closer it gets, the more of a warm tone it takes on. The proximity "forces its light through thicker air, which also tends to be humid this time of year, and the combination typically makes it amber colored," writes Bob Berman of The Old Farmer's Almanac. Because of its hue, the Strawberry Moon is also called the Honey Moon. The reason why the name "Strawberry Moon" was popularized isn't due to the moon's color — it doesn't look anything like the bright red of a ripe strawberry — but the time of year it appears: June is strawberry-picking season.
There is a Strawberry Moon every June, but what makes this particular Strawberry Moon special is the summer solstice, which is also today. The solstice marks the longest day of the year, and was celebrated by civilizations around the globe as a symbol of fertility, fire, femininity, and blessings. It's still celebrated today as St. John's Day, the feast of John the Baptist, or as Litha, a neopagan holiday. The Strawberry Moon and the summer solstice rarely overlap — the last time that happened was 1967, which kicked off the Summer of Love. The next time the Strawberry Moon overlaps with the summer solstice won't happen until 2062. Who knows what the double whammy of astronomical happenings has in store for us this time?
In any case, you can observe the Strawberry Moon yourself by stepping outside this evening, or you can watch Slooh's live stream of the moonrise in the Canary Islands, which will feature commentary about the folklore surrounding the moon. It's a fantastic way to usher in the official start to summer while brushing up on your astronomical knowledge.
And, if all that doesn't do it for you, go check out a copy of Seveneves, a terrifying and thrilling look at what would happen if the moon randomly fractured into several pieces. It's one of my favorite books of this year — and it demonstrates just how important it is for our moon to stay right where it is in the sky.