Summer Stargazing Season Begins with Spectacular Solstice and Strawberry Moon

The summer stargazing season kicks off this month with the arrival of the summer solstice on June 20. This significant event marks the longest day of the year and signals a shift in astronomical seasons. During this time, the Summer Triangle of constellations will illuminate the night sky, offering stargazers a captivating celestial display.

On June 21, residents of New York will have the opportunity to witness a breathtaking full moon, known as the strawberry moon by the Algonquian people due to its association with harvest time. The moon will be positioned 10 moon-widths lower on the horizon than the sun and will reach its peak brightness just after 9 p.m. Observers can expect to see a striking amber-tinted moon, appearing exceptionally large and low in the sky, a rare occurrence that happens approximately every 18 years.

Astrophysicist Jackie Faherty from the American Museum of Natural History highlighted the beauty of low moons, emphasizing their proximity to the horizon and the sense of awe they evoke in spectators. In addition to the strawberry moon, stargazers can enjoy the sight of the Summer Triangle, a distinctive pattern of stars featuring Vega, Deneb, and Altair, visible as bright points of light in the night sky.

For those eager to explore further, the Milky Way, a vast band of stars, gas, and dust, is currently positioned high in the sky and can be observed with binoculars or a telescope away from city lights. Despite missing the recent Manhattanhenge phenomenon, New Yorkers can anticipate a similar experience on July 12 and 13, with the sun setting in alignment with the city’s grid.

While rumors of a “parade of planets” on June 3 have circulated, Faherty advised caution, noting that the event, featuring Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn aligning in the predawn hours, may not live up to the hype. Observing Neptune and Uranus will require advanced equipment, and Mercury and Jupiter will be obscured by the sun’s glare. Instead, she recommended waiting until February for a planetary alignment involving Venus as well.

As the summer stargazing season unfolds, enthusiasts are encouraged to savor the celestial wonders above while remaining discerning about astronomical phenomena and their viewing expectations.