If you live in a place where the night sky is visible and the weather cooperates, you might have seen a moon once in a while with an orange-yellow hue. This is known as a supermoon—a phenomenon that occurs when the moon is at its closest point to Earth in its monthly orbit (known as perigee), coinciding with the moment when it’s also at its fullest (known as “waxing gibbous”).
It looks about 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than normal. This happens because the moon has an elliptical orbit rather than a perfect circle, so it’s slightly closer to Earth sometimes and slightly farther away from it. The last supermoon’s occurred on June 14th and July 13th of 2022. The next supermoons for 2022 will occur on or around August 1st and August 30th of 2023. Mark your calendars and make sure to catch them if you can:
What’s a supermoon, anyways?
The moon’s path as it circulates the Earth is not a perfect circle, so the moon isn’t always the same distance away from us. We call the furthest point the apogee and the closest point the perigee. “Supermoon” refers to the slightly enlarged appearance of the moon whenever it’s closer to the Earth than average. According to NASA, supermoons can also be up to 30 percent brighter than typical full moons, which is why they seem so imposing.
Although widely used, the term “supermoon” was actually the creation of the astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979, not astronomers, so its definition varies. As a result, there isn’t a consensus on how much closer the moon must be to be considered a true supermoon. The guidelines proposed by EarthSky suggest any full moon or new moon that’s 224,791 miles or closer is a supermoon.
It’s a rare chance to see the moon up close.
The supermoon phenomenon is rare because the moon’s perigee is only about once every 14 months. What’s more, there are only a few times a year when the perigee coincides with the full moon. A supermoon can happen twice a month, but this is more common in January and February when the full moon occurs around the time of the perigee.
One of the best times to observe the moon is near the horizon because the lack of atmosphere makes studying the craters, mountains, and valleys on its surface easier. It’s also easier to see the reddish cast that gives the moon a “blood moon” look, caused by particles in the atmosphere filtering out the blue end of the light spectrum.
It’s an excellent time for stargazing.
If you’re an amateur astronomer or stargazer who wants to catch a glimpse of celestial bodies in the night sky, a supermoon is a great time to do so. Since the moon is bigger and brighter, it will cast more light on the dark sky, which makes it easier to see faint stars and other celestial bodies in the sky.
If you want to build a telescope or use your camera’s zoom to take pictures of the night sky, this is the best time to do it. You can also try to sketch the images you see with pencil and paper so that you can remember them for future reference.
“For 2021, some publications consider the four full Moons from March to June, some the three full Moons from April to June, and some only the two full Moons in April and May as supermoons,” NASA’s Gordon Johnston reported. Either way, the Strawberry Moon will be closer to us than the average full moon and appear slightly larger.
This is the final time a full moon will coincide with supermoon timing this year, but it’s not the closest the moon will get. In fact, the moon will hit its closest distance to us in December—we just won’t be able to see it. December’s perigee will coincide with the point in the lunar cycle where the moon is between the Earth and the Sun, with its illuminated face facing away from us.
It can cause water spouts and high tides.
The supermoon can cause a significant rise in water levels due to its gravitational effect. This can lead to flooding in low-lying areas with a greater risk of being hit by a tsunami. You should not go near the shore when there’s a supermoon since the water can rise quickly.
As a rule of thumb, you should avoid areas near water bodies whenever there’s a supermoon since the high tides can make it dangerous to swim or be near the shore. If you live by a river or shoreline with a risk of flooding, make sure to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Why does this moon have a special name?
Whether or not this week’s Strawberry Moon is a true supermoon, it still gets a special name. This is because its name is actually due to its seasonal timing in the lunar cycle. The strawberry moon is the full moon closest in timing to the summer solstice, which coincides with the strawberry-growing season in what’s now the northeastern United States and parts of northern Canada.
The full moon that marks this season was originally named by the indigenous Algonquin, Ojibwe, Dakota, and Lakota peoples, among others, that lived on these lands to honor the harvest of the sweet fruit, according to the Farmer’s Almanac.
Alternative names reflect the early summer abundance of this time of year. The Haida term is Berries Ripen Moon; Blooming Moon (Anishinaabe) evokes the flowering season; Green Corn Moon (Cherokee) and Hoer Moon (Western Abenaki) indicate it’s time to care for young crops; Birth Moon (Tlingit) refers to the new animal life abundant in the Pacific Northwest; Egg Laying Moon and Hatching Moon (Cree) suggest a similar theme of animal babies.
[Related: How to photograph the moon like a pro]
Unfortunately, the Strawberry Moon’s color won’t match its name. Instead, it will appear a warm golden color, as Jackie Fahey, an astrophysicist with the American Museum of Natural History, told NPR. “It can have a tiny bit of a red tinge to it depending on what’s in the atmosphere, but mostly it will look like a nice yellow,” she says.
The colors of the Earth will be reflected in the sky.
When the supermoon coincides with a solar eclipse, it can create a “blood moon.” This happens when the sun’s rays pass through the Earth’s atmosphere and are filtered out by certain elements in the air. This leaves the red spectrum of light behind, which creates a reddish hue on the moon you can see through the sky. The color of the supermoon will depend on the type of light reflecting off it. The supermoon will have a reddish hue if it’s near a coastline or a desert. It’ll be more grey in color if it’s near a heavily-populated area
You can see shooting stars with the naked eye.
A supermoon coincides with the best time of the year to observe shooting stars with the naked eye. This only happens when there’s no moon in the sky, so the stars can shine brightly. Ideally, you should look towards the constellation known as the Orion, one of the best places for stargazing. As you watch the stars, make sure not to be too distracted by social media or your phone to fully appreciate the supermoon’s beauty. You can also use binoculars or a telescope to get a clearer view of the stars.
It’ll be a great opportunity to take photos and videos.
A supermoon is great for photography and videography since it’s a rare phenomenon that you might not see again for another year or two. If you want to take pictures, make sure to take them with a long-exposure setting so that you can see the Earth’s shadow cast on the moon’s surface. If you want to take videos, make sure to avoid using a zoom lens since it will distort the perspective of the moon’s size. You can also look for a nearby body of water with a reflective surface to use as a backdrop for your shoot.
How and when to see the Strawberry Moon
The Strawberry Moon will be completely full for just a moment on Thursday, at 2:40 p.m. ET (1840 GMT). However, it will appear full to the casual observer roughly from Wednesday to Saturday.
To observe and photograph the final full-moon supermoon of 2021, you can find your exact local moonrise and moonset times using timeanddate.com. If inclement weather disrupts your view, astrophysicist Gianluca Masi, founder, and director of The Virtual Telescope Project, is hosting a virtual Livestream of the Strawberry Moon rising over Rome at 3 p.m. ET (1900 GMT) on Thursday.
Dates of past super moon events
- May 1948 – The moon was closest to Earth on May 19. The full moon occurred on May 26, making it a supermoon.
- July 1951 – The July full moon coincided with the supermoon on July 27.
- March 1963 – The March full moon was a supermoon on March 19.
- July 1967 – The July full moon was a supermoon on July 16.
- April 1972 – The April full moon was a supermoon on April 17.
- February 1979 – The February full moon was a supermoon on February 19. April 1982 – The April full moon was a supermoon on April 16.
- March 1987 – The March full moon was a supermoon on March 16. March 1990 – The March full moon was a supermoon on March 19.
- May 1996 – The May full moon was a supermoon on May 19. July 1998 – The July full moon was a supermoon on July 18.
- March 2001 – The March full moon was a supermoon on March 19.
- November 2003 – The November full moon was a supermoon on November 19. April 2004 – The April full moon was a supermoon on April 18.
- November 2004 – The November full moon was a supermoon on November 18.
The supermoon is a rare phenomenon that occurs once every year or two. When this happens, the moon is at its closest point to Earth and at its brightest. This is the best time to go stargazing, photography, and videography since it’s easier to see faint stars in the night sky. If you want to see the supermoon, ensure that the weather is clear and that you’re far away from sources of light pollution such as cities.