Let the Magic of the Night Sky Dazzle You

On June 21, we will celebrate the longest day of the year, also known as the first day of summer! But there is even more reason to celebrate the month of June. Get outside this month and enjoy the magic of the night sky!


Supermoons and micromoons


As the moon rotates around the Earth in an elliptical path, its distance from Earth changes. Perigee is the name for when the moon is closest to Earth. Apogee is when the moon is the farthest distance.

(Illustration via Shutterstock)

A full moon occurs when the sun, Earth and moon are lined up in exactly that order and we can see the entire disk of the moon illuminated by the sun. A new moon occurs when those celestial bodies line up in this order: sun, moon, Earth. When this happens, the moon is in a shadow and invisible to us on Earth.

 

Words to know

Apogee: The point in the orbit of the moon at which it is farthest from Earth.

Perigee: The point in the orbit of the moon at which it is nearest from Earth.

 

If a full moon or new moon falls when the moon is near perigee, closest to Earth, it is called a super full moon or a super new moon. If the moon is near apogee, or farthest from Earth, when there is a full or new moon it is called a micro full moon or a micro new moon.


We cannot observe a new moon — super, micro or otherwise. But we can observe a super full moon and a micro full moon. The size of a micromoon is 14% smaller than a supermoon, so this slight difference is difficult for the casual observer to notice. What you may notice is the brightness. A micro full moon appears dim, while a super full moon is astonishingly bright!


This year’s full strawberry moon on Tuesday, June 14, coincides with perigee. Therefore, it is a super full moon. On June 14, the sun will set around 8:27 p.m., and 40 minutes later, at 9:17 p.m., the super full moon will rise in the southeastern skies. Get outside and see for yourself!

Two weeks later, on June 28, the moon is at apogee and it is also the new moon. So it is a micro new moon. This means there will be a beautiful dark sky for stargazing, watching the planets and more!


Give the Bootids a chance


This June’s micro new moon coincides with the peak of the Bootid meteor shower. The Bootid meteor shower is not one you hear about often. It is a Class III meteor shower, so it does not reliably produce as many meteors per hour as many of the Class I meteor showers you may be familiar with. But this year, the stars are aligning so to speak, so we may get a really nice show!

The constellation Bootes. (Illustration via Shutterstock)

The peak of the Bootids meteor shower will be June 27, just a day before the micro new moon, so the sky will be extra dark. The radiant, or the spot in the sky where the meteors seem to appear from, will be above our horizon all night. The radiant is from the constellation Bootes, which will be high in the sky and looks like a kite.


The best time to watch will be soon after the sun sets, with a peak around 11 p.m. This is pretty awesome because most meteor showers require waking up in the middle of the night to see the peak.


So as long as the clouds stay away, get outside and check out this modest meteor shower for yourself!

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