The orbit of June 2020’s “Strawberry Full Moon” will be passing through the faint outer shadow of Earth, making what’s known as a penumbral lunar eclipse visible to stargazers across the Eastern hemisphere.
June 5 and 6 play host to the second of four penumbral lunar eclipses this year. Pending clear skies, astronomy enthusiasts across Asia, Australia, Europe, Africa, and parts of southeastern South America will notice a perceptible partial darkening of the Moon; according to Time and Date, the eclipse is set to reach its maximum peak at 7:24 p.m. UTC on June 5.
From start to finish, the eclipse is expected to last 3 hours and 18 minutes. Lunar eclipses are visible to anybody residing on the night side of Earth at the time of the event, if the sky remains clear; but unfortunately for stargazers in North America, the June 5 penumbral eclipse will occur below the visible horizon.
The Moon’s tilted orbit around Earth gives rise to the phenomenon of lunar eclipses. Twice a year, the Moon passes through Earth’s shadow, creating either a total, partial, or penumbral lunar eclipse.
A penumbral lunar eclipse, while a fascinating spectacle, can be a little difficult to differentiate from a regular full moon. This type of lunar eclipse, says EarthSky, occurs when the Moon crosses the faint perimeter of Earth’s shadow only—the penumbra—making the Moon appear slightly darker than usual. The effect is so subtle that it is nearly imperceptible.
“Earth’s penumbral shadow forms a diverging cone that expands into space in the anti-solar direction,” NASA explains. “From within this zone, Earth blocks part but not the entire disk of the Sun. Thus, some fraction of the Sun’s direct rays continues to reach the most deeply eclipsed parts of the Moon during a penumbral eclipse.”
June’s Strawberry Full Moon will rise just after sunset on June 5. The Old Farmer’s Almanac advises stargazers to look toward the southeast to catch the Moon’s gradual ascent above the horizon, where it will appear larger than usual and golden hued.
The Strawberry Moon is expected to reach its peak illumination at 7:12 p.m. UTC, shortly before the peak of the penumbral eclipse.
June’s full moon was historically heralded as a signal to gather ripening wild strawberries by the Algonquin tribes of eastern North America, who named this moon after the said fruit itself. In Europe, alternate names for the June full moon include the Honey Moon, the Mead Moon, and the Rose Moon.
According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, folklore that accompanies June’s Strawberry Full Moon includes the month of June being a lucky time to get married and the best time for crabbing, shrimping, and clamming.
The Moon will be particularly low in the sky throughout the month of June, says Forbes’s science expert Jamie Carter, dominating the night sky and even becoming visible in the late afternoon and early evening.
The third and the fourth penumbral lunar eclipses of 2020 will take place on July 4 to July 5, and on Nov. 29 to Nov. 30, respectively. The first penumbral lunar eclipses of the year occurred in January.
Additionally, the month of June will feature the planet Mercury, an ordinarily hard-to-spot planet, becoming visible to stargazers with the aid of binoculars. The comparatively brighter Venus, on the other hand, will disappear from view after six months of good visibility, says Carter.
Avid lovers of the night sky can also hope to see Corona Borealis, a stunning constellation comprising seven bright stars situated directly above the heads of anybody residing in the Northern hemisphere.