This week it’s all about our satellite, with a stunning full “Strawberry Moon” due on Friday.
With the Moon also particularly low in the sky this month, it’s sure to dominate—and even be visible in the afternoon and early evening. From some parts of the world a subtle lunar eclipse will be visible, too, though not from most of Europe or North America.
No matter, because from everywhere on the planet the elusive planet Mercury will shine in twilight (binoculars at the ready!) while its brighter sister Venus finally disappears from view after an incredible six months when it’s dominated the post-sunset night sky.
Get ready to look to the night sky today.
A full “strawberry moon” is on the calendar, and it will come with an understated partial eclipse for some parts of the world. While the moon will be at its absolute fullest on Friday around noon PT, you’ll have several opportunities to enjoy the view.
The moon will still look full from early Thursday morning through early Sunday morning, NASA said Monday.
North America will miss the eclipse, but the Virtual Telescope Project will livestream the lunar event from Italy above a view of the Rome skyline. Mark your calendar for noon PT on Friday, June 5.
A penumbral eclipse is much more subtle than a total eclipse. The moon slips through the Earth’s outer (penumbral) shadow, which can trigger a slight darkening of the moon. If you didn’t know it was happening, you might miss it. A partial penumbral eclipse like the one on Friday makes it even harder to spot a difference.
Denizens of the moon, however, would notice the effects. “For spacecraft at the Moon such as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), the reduction in solar power is noticeable,” NASA said. Unfortunately, the “strawberry” nickname for the June full moon doesn’t refer to a color, but seems to be an old reference to the strawberry harvest season. NASA’s Gordon Johnston rounded up a list of alternative names for this month’s moon, including mead moon, honey moon, hot moon and planting moon.
Even if the eclipse is too faint to detect, you can still take a moment to bask in the light of a lovely full moon this week.
It’s also a great week to find Corona Borealis—the “Northern Crown”—a beautiful constellation of seven sparkling stars straight above your head at this time of year.
As the Moon waxes towards its “full” phase it becomes easily viewable in daylight. Check out the eastern daytime sky in mid-afternoon in these days and you’ll see an 81%-illuminated Moon. It will rise about 80 minutes later each day this week until Friday’s full “Strawberry Moon” rises at dusk.
It’s a great chance to watch and photograph the Moon during the day, and as it gets dark you’ll see bright star Spica appear just below it in the south, with red supergiant star Arcturus above it.
Venus will pass between Earth and Sun today—something called inferior conjunction by astronomers—and go from being a bright, sparkling “Evening Star” to a “Morning Star.” However, it won’t be easy to spot in the pre-dawn night skies until about June 10, 2020.
These days are another good day for watching an almost-full Moon in the daytime skies; look east in the early evening about two hours before dusk for a 96% illuminated Moon.