The Full Strawberry Moon of 2023 will be joined by a few solar system guests in the night sky.
The full moon of June will occur on June 3 at 11:42 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (0342 UTC on June 4) according to the U.S. Naval Observatory. Observers in New York City will see the almost-full moon set at about 4:41 a.m. local time on June 3, and it will rise that evening at 8:21 p.m.
A full moon happens when the moon is exactly on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun. Earthbound observers see the moon reflect the sun's light, unless its orbit carries it within the Earth's shadow – a lunar eclipse. That won't happen this time, so we are treated to a brightly-lit night with the moon low in the sky (for Northern Hemisphere sky-watchers). One artifact of the moon being on the opposite side of the sky from the sun is that when full, it appears at approximately the same point where the sun will in six months' time (or six months in the past).
So when you look at the full moon in June, you are seeing it where the sun would be in December. That's why in the Northern Hemisphere summer (roughly late June, through September) we see the full moons closer to the horizon, whereas in wintertime the moon is higher. It's also why the moon often appears to give a "warmer" light in the summer; being lower in the sky, with more atmosphere between the viewer and the moon, it will often look a little yellower or orange, just as sunsets do. The effect is the same in the Southern Hemisphere, but summertime there is late December through March.
Through binoculars or a small telescope the full moon appears very bright; the glare can make it hard to see details. There is no danger to one's eyes, but there are moon filters available to increase the contrast. It's actually easier to see surface details on the moon when it is a crescent or during quarter phases ("half" moons); the issue is that from the point of view of a lunar astronaut, a full moon is when the sun is directly overhead – think of it as "lunar noon." A stick placed on the lunar surface near the equator would cast no shadows at all. Since we are looking at the moon from "above," there's little to give any contrast.
You can prepare for the next full moon with our guide on how to photograph the moon. If you need imaging gear, consider our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography to make sure you're ready for the next eclipse.
In New York City, moonrise on June 3 will be at almost exactly the same time as sunset (which is at 8:22 p.m. local time, per the USNO). As the sun goes below the horizon the moon will be in the southeast. As the sky gets dark, one will see Venus and Mars in the west.
Venus is the brighter of the two; it is so bright it is usually among the first celestial objects (besides the moon) one can spot. Mars will appear as a reddish "star" to the left and slightly above Venus; as one moves southwards the Red Planet will appear higher relative to Venus (for example, from Miami, Mars appears at a 45 degree angle above and to the left of Venus, while from Caracas, Venezuela, Mars is almost directly above it).
By about 9 p.m. one can see to the right of Venus will be two bright stars, Pollux and Castor, the "heads" of Gemini, the Twins. Pollux is the one closer to Venus. Venus will set at 11:41 pm. ET (0341 GMT on June 4), the local time will be similar at other mid-northern latitude locations. Mars sets at just after midnight, 12:03 a.m. (0403 GMT) on June 4.
Meanwhile, Saturn rises at 1:17 a.m. ET (0517 GMT) on June 4, and is in the constellation Aquarius. Aquarius isn't a bright constellation so Saturn will stand out. Jupiter follows at 3:30 a.m. EDT in the constellation Aries. The last planet to rise is Mercury, which clears the horizon at 4:23 a.m. Saturn and Jupiter both rise far enough ahead of sunrise that they can be easily seen; by 3 a.m. Saturn will be 15 degrees high in the southeast. Jupiter will be about 11 degrees high at 4:30 a.m. (about an hour before sunrise) and is bright enough that it is still visible even as the sky starts to get a little bit light.
Mercury, on the other hand, is a much more challenging observational target. Rising only an hour before the sun does it won't get more than 10 degrees above the eastern horizon by sunrise; by that time it gets lost in the glare. It is also dangerous to aim any optical aids – binoculars, telescopes, or telephoto lenses – in the direction of the sun; one should exercise caution when attempting to observe planets so close to it.
A day after the full moon, Venus will be at its greatest eastern elongation, which means it is as far away from the sun along the ecliptic (the line described by the sun as it travels against the background stars) as it gets; that means it is also visible for the longest period in the evening; the planet doesn't set until 11:40 p.m.
Southern Hemisphere skywatchers will see the full moon higher in the sky and experience longer nights. In Buenos Aires, for example, the full moon happens at 12:42 a.m. local time on June 4, with the moon at 80 degrees of altitude – nearly straight overhead. The moon will rise there at 5:19 p.m. local time – the sun sets only a little later at 5:50 p.m. The sky will be fully dark by about 7 p.m. and Venus will be bright in the northwest; Mars will be just above it and to the right. Jupiter, meanwhile, will be in the east and just below Antares.
From Buenos Aires Saturn rises at 12:09 a.m. and Jupiter at 4:43 a.m. As the sun rises later than in the Northern Hemisphere – it doesn't appear until 7:53 a.m. on June 3 and 7:54 a.m. on June 4 – both planets are correspondingly higher in the sky by daybreak than in the Northern Hemisphere; by 7:00 a.m. Saturn is about 65 degrees high in the northwest, while Jupiter is about 25 degrees high. As an added bonus for Southern Hemisphere skywatchers, Mercury will also be much easier to see – on the morning of June 4 it is 12 degrees above the horizon at the latitude of Buenos Aires by 7:00 a.m.
The innermost planet will also make a close pass to Uranus, which is usually very hard to see without a dark sky and keen eyes (most people can only see it with binoculars). At 1:34 a.m. in Buenos Aires, Mercury will be in conjunction with Uranus, passing just under 3 degrees south of the outer planet. By the time both planets rise (around 6:00 a.m. local time, according to In-the-Sky.org) they won't be quite so close, but one can use Mercury, the brighter of the two, to spot Uranus – both planets will be close enough that in a pair of binoculars one can first spot Mercury and then turn slightly to the left (northwards) and slightly downwards (towards the horizon) to catch Uranus.
At the time of the June full moon, the summer constellations will be in full view most of the night, but the moon's brightness will wash out most fainter stars. The Summer Triangle – Deneb, Altair and Vega – will be high in the northeast towards midnight. The moon, meanwhile, will be right to the left of Antares, the brightest star in Scorpio, and reaching its highest point of the night. While it is harder to see when the full moon is out, above Scorpio is Ophiuchus, the Serpent-bearer. Ophiuchus is a rectangle topped by a flattish triangle; its stars are only medium bright. Above Ophiuchus is Hercules, marked by a small quadrangle of stars called the Keystone.
Given how bright the moon is, if one wants to find Hercules one can use the Big Dipper or Vega. From the Dipper, which is on the left side of the sky at around midnight, one can use the handle – it will be facing upwards. Make a sweeping arc along the handle and the first bright star you hit is the orange-yellow Arcturus, the brightest star in Bootes, the Herdsman. Look to your left – "behind" the Herdsman, and one sees a small circlet of stars with a brighter one halfway along the curve. That's Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown. Continue to the left and one will see the Keystone, which is in Hercules. Using Vega, one can draw a line between Vega and Arcturus, and Hercules and the Northern Crown are both along that path.
Southern Hemisphere observers will see the sky get dark (in mid-southern latitudes) by about 7 p.m., and at that point the Southern Cross will be high in the southeast. The three brightest stars are Acrux (the bottom of the cross), Gacrux (the top) and Mimosa (the left side). All three make an arrow shape that points to a nearby bright star familiar to science fiction fans, Alpha Centauri, also known as Rigil Kentaurus, and just above Rigil Kentaurus is Hadar, the second brightest star in the Centaur.
The full moon will be rising in the east and just below Antares, the "heart" of the Scorpion. As one turns west (to the right) of the Southern Cross one can see the three constellations that make up the legendary Argo: Puppis, Vela and Carina. The brightest star in Carina is Canopus, and it is some 40 degrees above the southwestern horizon. Looking upwards from Canopus one can see an oblong circle of medium-bright stars; this is Vela, the Sail. Looking right one encounters Puppis, the Poop Deck.
How the Strawberry Moon got its name
The term Strawberry Moon for the full moon of June comes from the berries that appear in North America around that time of year (though modern varieties are available at other times as well). According to the Ontario Native Literacy Coalition, the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) treated the Strawberry Moon (Ode'miin Giizis) as a time for annual feasts and welcoming people home. By contrast the Cree called it Opiniyawiwipisim, the Egg Laying Moon, as it was when birds and waterfowl started laying eggs.
In the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, June 3 will fall on the 16th day of the fourth lunar month, called Locust Tree Month, or Huáiyuè.
In New Zealand, the traditional Māori calendar is called the maramataka and is based on lunations, much like Jewish and Muslim calendars. Unlike those two, the Māori begin their lunar months on the full moon rather than the new moon, and start the year with the lunation that runs from May to June. The June full moon is therefore the beginning of the second month, called Hongonui, which the Māori describe as a very cold month; June is midwinter in the Southern Hemisphere.
Editor's note: If you snap an image of the full Strawberry Moon and would like to share it with Space.com's readers, send your photo(s), comments, and your name and location to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Jesse Emspak is a freelance journalist who has contributed to several publications, including Space.com, Scientific American, New Scientist, Smithsonian.com and Undark. He focuses on physics and cool technologies but has been known to write about the odder stories of human health and science as it relates to culture. Jesse has a Master of Arts from the University of California, Berkeley School of Journalism, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Rochester. Jesse spent years covering finance and cut his teeth at local newspapers, working local politics and police beats. Jesse likes to stay active and holds a fourth degree black belt in Karate, which just means he now knows how much he has to learn and the importance of good teaching.