It’s rare, all right. A full Moon last landed smack on the Solstice in the 1940s. It’s the kind of thing that would have inspired the Mayans to shove a few extra in-laws from their pyramids – the sort of coincidence that would have made the Stonehenge folks haul additional stones into position. But that’s what’s actually happening this Monday, June 20.
This has visible in-your-face consequences. The Solstice is of course the day with the most minutes of sunshine. It’s when the midday Sun is highest up, when the Sun rises at its leftmost spot on the horizon and sets at its rightmost position. It’s when the setting Sun sprays into windows at a strange angle, and touches bits of furniture that are not illuminated at any other time. It’s when the Sun’s path makes its longest and curviest arc across the heavens.
If you want the exact Solstice moment when our Northern Hemisphere is most tipped toward the Sun, it’s 6:34 p.m. But first do a Punxsutawney Phil and check out your shadow at 1 p.m. You’ll see your shortest shadow of the year.
Then you have the full Moon – which is always opposite the Sun. By landing exactly on the Solstice, this Full Moon doesn’t just rise as the Sun sets, but has its wimpiest position of 2016, its lowest of the year. Even at its highest at 1 a.m., it’s downright low-down. This makes it shine through thicker air, which also tends to be humid this time of year, and the combination typically causes it to be amber-colored. This is the true Honey Moon.
The moment of full Moon is early Monday morning. So it will look equally full on Sunday night and Monday night. You get two chances to view the Honey Moon.
Break out those old bongo drums. Put on some feathers and your old hippie clothes. Connect with the spirit of the Native Americans. We’ve got the full Moon on the Solstice, for the first time in 68 years.
Want to know more? To read Bob’s previous “Night Sky” columns, visit our Almanac Weekly website at HudsonValleyAlmanacWeekly.com.