s the sun sinks beneath the horizon on the longest day of the year on the evening of Monday June 20, it will be worth looking up.
For the first time since 1967 the summer solstice coincides with a rare ‘strawberry’ moon and, clouds willing, the 17 hours of sunlight will give way to a bright moonlit sky.
Despite the name, the moon will not appear pink or red, although it may glow a warm amber. The romantic label was coined by the Algonquin tribes of North America who believed June’s full moon signalled the beginning of the strawberry picking season.
Other names for the phenomenon in the Northern Hemisphere include Rose Moon, the Hot Moon, and the Honey Moon, while in the Southern Hemisphere it is known as the Long Night Moon.
“Having a full moon land smack on the solstice is a truly rare event,” said astronomer Bob Mernan of Farmer’s Almanac.
“By landing exactly on the solstice, this Full Moon doesn’t just rise as the Sun sets but is opposite the Sun in all other ways too.
“The Sun gets super high so this Moon must be super-low. This forces its light through thicker air, which also tends to be humid this time of year, and the combination typically makes it amber coloured. This is the true Honey Moon.”
Around 25,000 people are expected to gather at Stonehenge in Wiltshire to celebrate the solstice, which comes from the Latin solstitium meaning “sun stands still”
The day is considered to be sacred by many pagans around the world who celebrate the solstice among their yearly holidays and sometimes call he festival Litha, a term dating back to the Venerable Bede for the months of June and July.
English Heritage, which is charging people to park at Stonehenge for the first time this year, has asked revellers to respect the ancient monument.
“Stonehenge is an ancient prehistoric site which has been a place of worship and celebration at the time of the Summer Solstice for thousands of years,” said a spokesman.
“This important place is seen as many as a sacred site. Please respect it and please respect each other.”
The solstice occurs when the tilt of Earth’s semi-axis, in either northern or southern hemispheres, is most inclined toward the sun.
The Sun will rise at 4.45am and set at 1.34pm. After tonight the days begin to shorten in the northern hemisphere
Although the meeting of the strawberry moon and solstice has no more significance than an interesting astronomical alignment, it has been causing excitement amid astrologers.
“There is a lot of stuff that is lining up to make this moon quite potent,” said astrologer Timothy Halloran.
“There is an explosion of energy that will go on with this full moon.”
The last strawberry moon occurring on the solstice occurred on June 22 1967. If you miss Monday’s you’ll have to wait another 46 years before you can see the full moon on the summer solstice with the rare event not happening again until June 21, 2062.