June's full moon – popularly nicknamed the Strawberry Moon – will ripen in Earth's skies on Tuesday (June 14). The moon will reach its peak around 8:00 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, but will also appear bright and full on Monday and Wednesday night.
As its nickname suggests, this moon coincides with the summer strawberry harvest in North America. According to the Maine Farmer's Almanac, which began publishing Native American names of moons in the 1930s, the Algonquin tribes in what is now northeastern United States gave the June full moon this delicious moniker; modern cultures have since adopted the name.
Other June moon nicknames include the Mead Moon or the Honey Moon, as the moon's appearance coincides with the honey harvest in Europe, according to NASA. The term "honeymoon," now meaning any post-wedding vacation, may derive from an old custom of marrying in June, while the "sweetest" moon of the year rose overhead, NASA suggests.
Sweet or not, the June full moon will appear bigger and brighter than usual. That's because June's full moon will be the first of two consecutive supermoons, or full moons that orbit within 90% of their closest approach to Earth – a point known as perigee in astronomy. Supermoons can appear larger and up to 16% brighter in the sky than the average full moon does, according to timeanddate.com.
The next supermoon, also called the Buck Moon, rises on Wednesday, July 13.
The full moon occurs about once a month when the sun, Earth and moon line up on an invisible 180-degree line. The moon's orbit is about 5 degrees different from Earth's, so it is usually a little higher or lower than Earth's shadow, allowing the sun's rays to illuminate the side facing Earth, Live Science previously reported.
The moon typically sits at perigee for anywhere from two to five lunar cycles, according to the Natural History Museum London. That means a typical year contains between two and five supermoons.
To watch the June supermoon light up the sky over Rome, Italy, click over to the Virtual Telescope project on June 14, around 3:15 p.m. EDT. What could be sweeter than fresh lunar strawberries on an Italian summer night?
Originally published on Live Science.
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Brandon is the space/physics editor at Live Science. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Reader's Digest, CBS.com, the Richard Dawkins Foundation website and other outlets. He holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from the University of Arizona, with minors in journalism and media arts. He enjoys writing most about space, geoscience and the mysteries of the universe.