Summer is closing in now. The air is fragrant at night, the days are more humid and I really need to mow the yard as soon as possible. On Friday, June 5 the moon will be full and rise pink as an unripe strawberry. In fact June’s full moon is known as the Strawberry Moon and for good reason. This is when the strawberries ripen. While I’ve seen the flowers around I’ve yet to spot any ripe berries. But the month is young.
The moon will shine from the Ophiuchus the serpent-bearer on Friday. A small portion of this large, zodiac constellation pokes between Scorpius to the west and Sagittarius to the east. Constellation boundaries used to be vague but when they were standardized in 1930, Ophiuchus’s territory included a part of the ecliptic, the path followed by the sun, moon and planets in the sky. The moon spends about a night here a month.
The sun lingers longer, entering the serpent-bearer on November 30 and remaining through December 18. While Ophiuchus is considered a constellation of the zodiac it has not been elevated to the rank of a sign. The 12 signs of the zodiac reference the sun’s traditional monthly location and include the familiar constellations listed in horoscopes — Leo, Scorpius and so on. No Ophiuchus though. History is history and no astrological revisions to the signs are in the cards, so the poor serpent-bearer watches from the sidelines for now.
That’s one of the differences between science and astrology. Science rocks and rolls with new data and thrives in a continuous state of revision. Some aspects of human culture not so much. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that.
A full moon always lies directly opposite the sun in the sky so that when the sun sets the moon rises. Sunset and moonrise times are rarely exactly the same because the moment of full moon rarely occurs at the same instant as local sunset, but they’re close enough. Click here to find your moonrise time. For best viewing find a locationi with a clean view of the eastern horizon. The closer to the horizon you can catch the rising moon the more curious things you’ll see.
Both the color and distorted shape of the rising moon are caused by the atmosphere. No matter where you live the air you breathe scatters away blue, purple and some of the green light streaming from the moon (remember that white light is made up all the colors of a rainbow) so we see it rise orange and yellow. The atmosphere also acts like a prism and bends the moon’s light upward from the horizon. Thicker air nearer the horizon bends the bottom half of the moon more than the top half, lifting and “squeezing” the bottom of the moon into the top, deforming it into a watermelon or bean shape.
Local weather conditions stamp their own unique signature on the moon’s appearance. Multiple, stable layers of air can cut “steps” into the sides of the orangey orb. Temperature inversions — where warm air flows over cooler water or ground — make the moon look like a sticky, melted marshmallow as it pulls free of the horizon.
That’s why I try to see every full moon moonrise because conditions are different every time. I also bring binoculars so I can see the details better.
In other news, SpaceX successfully launched 60 more Starlink satellites last night (June 3), making for a total of 480 currently in orbit. Although it was the 8th launch this latest mission is called Starlink-7 because launches began with Starlink-0, not “1.” The best time to see them is within a few days of liftoff when they’re still bunched together in a line and brightest. Click here for complete instructions on how to use the Heavens-Above website to find pass times and print viewing maps.
VisorSat, the one with the flip-up sunshade designed to block reflected sunlight from the satellite’s antennas from reaching the ground, is numbered Starlink-1436. Watch for it and see if you can tell any difference in its brightness compared to the others.
Below is a sampling of U.S. cities and times (all local times, June 4) when the 60 members of Starlink-7 will make bright passes. I selected only the best passes because light from the full moon will wash out the sky. An excellent pass!
Atlanta — starts low and faint in the southwestern sky at 9:34 p.m. but by 9:36 p.m. they will brighten to magnitude 1.7 and should be relatively easy to see in the southern sky. VisorSat will be third in line in this and all evening passes below.
Boston — starts at 9:37 p.m. in the southwest with the cluster brightening to magnitude 1.5 by 9:39 p.m. as it crosses high in the southern sky. An excellent pass!
New York area — Almost identical to the Boston pass. Starts at 9:36 p.m. in the southwest and brightest around 9:38 p.m. high in the south.
Cleveland — Low, unfavorable pass across the southern sky. Best around 9:37-38 p.m. at magnitude 3.3.
Chicago — Unfavorable evening pass across the northern sky (best at 10:10-11 p.m. at magnitude 3.4) but a decent dawn pass on Friday, June 5 starting at 4:25 a.m. in the southwestern sky and best at 4:27-28 a.m. at magnitude 2.6.
New Orleans — Good pass starting at 8:32 p.m. in the south. Best at 8:34 p.m. in the southeastern sky at magnitude 2.3.
Duluth, MN — Good pass starting at 10:08 p.m. in the southwest. Best at 10:10 p.m. low in the southern sky at magnitude 2.5.
Minneapolis — Very similar to the Duluth pass with identical times but climbing higher in the south and magnitude 2.1.
Eau Claire, Wis. — Very similar to Minneapolis and Duluth but brighter at magnitude 1.7 when the cluster crawls midway up the southern sky.
Fargo, ND — Poor pass low in the southern sky starting at 10:08 p.m. but best at 10:10 p.m. at magnitude 3.3.
Denver — Low pass in the southern-southeastern sky starting at 9:06 p.m. Best at 9:07 p.m. at magnitude 2.9. Much nicer 1.5 magnitude pass on Friday, June 5 at 9:09 p.m. Brightest at 9:11 p.m. high in the southern sky.
Phoenix — Poor pass low in the southern sky starting at 8:03 p.m. and best at 8:05 p.m. in the southeast at magnitude 3.0.
San Francisco — Excellent pass starting at 8:36 p.m. in the southwest and passing almost overhead. Brightest at 8:38 p.m. at magnitude 1.6.
Portland, OR — Poor pass tonight (June 4) but a very nice one tomorrow morning (June 5) starting at 3:53 a.m and passing nearly overhead. Brightest at 3:55 a.m. at magnitude 1.8.
Seattle — Good pass starting at 11:11 p.m. in the western sky. Brightest at 11:13 p.m. in the northern sky at magnitude 2.5.
Remember to get out a little early to allow time for your eyes to adapt to the darkness and know which direction to face. Good luck!