June 14, Strawberry Super-Moon!

More and more press releases are warning of a full moon that would be out of the ordinary. Sometimes they advertise it “super”, “pink”, “strawberry”, “blood” … Read this to understand why on June 14th you should not say super Strawberry Moon, but super Strawberry Moon!

Recently, the full moon has been regularly adorned with a number of insane qualifications online. Thus, for June 14, 2022, the media announces “a super Strawberry Moon”. This announcement is reminiscent of January 31, 2018, when the web trembled after a “blue supermoon of blood”. These messages are an overflow of North American culture to ours. It is often provoked by NASA’s press releases, questionable in their form or misinterpreted. Even the CNRS communicators were caught by it. On May 26, 2021, they invited on Twitter to observe the “super moon of flowers”. One can imagine that the tweet made the astronomers associated with the institution shake (and not just them).

And the moon of the sturgeon!

The notion of a supermoon can be discussed. But before that, let’s kill the Moon of flowers, strawberries and other blue moons. In the case of January 31, 2018, the addition of the qualification “blood” has no other reason than to encourage Internet users to click. That it flourished is a good illustration of the quality of free information on the web. In fact, it was simply a total lunar eclipse. Once immersed in the Earth’s shadow, our satellite assumes an orange or brick hue … But a “brick moon” is much less conspicuous! Let’s go to the blue moon. English speakers use the term “once in a blue moon” for something that only happens on a blue moon … which is nothing blue. A full moon is thus called when it occurs in a month in which there has already been a full moon. As far as there are 29.5 days between two full moons, these occurrences are rare: about forty per. century on average. In short, in French, the term has no meaning. The translation of once in a blue Moon would give something like “à la saint-Glinglin”. The strawberry moon on June 14, 2022 has no more astronomical reality. The term comes from a 1930s almanac edited by farmers in Maine, USA. They had invented a nickname for each month taken from Native American culture: the wolf’s full moon, strawberry, sturgeon, hunter, etc. These names have become popular in North American culture, but remain quite unusual here.

Easy esotericism

Let’s get to the supermoon. The story is even more amazing, for it is an invention of the American astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979. It is therefore absurd to see an esoteric concept taken up by NASA. According to Richard Nolle, a supermoon is a full moon or a new moon that occurs when our satellite is between 90 and 100% of its smallest distance from Earth. The moon has a substantially elliptical orbit and its distance varies between 356,700 km and 406,300 km. According to Richard Nolle’s definition, there can be up to six “supermoons” a year. The concept is therefore not very selective, but very practical for writing astrological prophecies.

Articles published on the occasion of supermooners often suggest that its size would be much larger than normal. In fact, the full moon at the perigee is 14% wider than at the apogee, and only 7% wider than when it is at its average distance from Earth. It’s not insignificant, but it’s not much. In the absence of visual cues, it is impossible to appreciate this gap with the naked eye. Photographers strive to capture the supermoon as it rises. Such a motif provides a spectacular composition, but it is not at this moment that our satellite is closest. Because of the Earth’s spherical shape, it is the closest we are to the Moon when it peaks in the sky. When it appears from the horizon, it is about 6,000 km away! That’s almost 2% of the Earth-Moon distance, and it’s not insignificant when you dispute about just a few percent obtained compared to the average distance.

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That’s true … for America

Press releases sometimes highlight the fact that the full moon is the closest in X years, even decades. But in fact, these variations from one year to the next affect only a few tens of kilometers. It’s imperceptible. At best, one can be intellectually satisfied with it when looking at the Moon that night.
To take advantage of this moment, it is still necessary that the exact moment of the full moon takes place when it is visible to the observer. Because if it occurs when the star culminates at the antipodes, it will have already moved about 1,000 km away when we see it in our turn. Moreover, all the headlines from NASA releases are often about optimal conditions for North America, not Europe. That’s exactly what’s happening on 14 June, because the full moon takes place at 11:53, so it’s below the horizon for European observers.

Should we then avoid the supermoon?

However, there is no reason to avoid the supermoon, although we can put this term aside and rather talk about a full moon of the perigee. The most amazing thing about the phenomenon is not so much the apparent diameter of our satellite, but its brightness. For example, the full moon on July 13, 2022 will be almost 30% brighter than December 19, 2021. In addition, it is always interesting to pay attention to the brightness of the Moon when it is full. “The full moon is 12 times brighter than a first quarter, and not twice as much as one might think,” emphasizes Jean Lecacheux, an astronomer at the Paris Observatory. This is called the phase effect. When the Moon is in the neighborhood, the smallest of its reliefs have a shadow, from the highest mountains to the smallest pebbles. At the time of the full moon, the lunar disk is illuminated by the Sun almost from the front. Seen from Earth, therefore, there is no visible shadow on its surface. The gain in brightness is very strong. Experience it for yourself. Go out at night with a book. After a few minutes of getting used to it, you will see that it is possible to read it by simple moonlight! And that’s what’s really “amazing” about the full moon in general, and with the full moon close to the perigee in particular, especially on June 14, 2022 and July 13, 2022. It should be noted that the full moon in June 14 is very low, it culminates at best with only 13 ° in the Paris sky, it is close to its minimum height. It’s the width of your fist with your thumb up if you extend your arm. In short, it is not one Super Strawberry Moonmen a Super Strawberry Moon for observers in the northern hemisphere. It does not even rise at polar latitudes.

A very real effect on the tide

Another spectacular phenomenon associated with the full moon: it causes high tides that are so much the more intense the closer they are to the perigee. The effect is further amplified around the equinox when the Earth’s equator faces the Sun. As a result, the tidal coefficients around the full moon in June and July 2022 will be around 100 in Brest. It is on these dates that it is really possible to see the water rise at the speed of a galloping horse in the bay of Mont Saint-Michel or at the tip of Hourdel in the Somme bay. If you went too late to see the seals on the huge beach, run! Low tide is also very marked and allows access to areas that are usually covered by water. Finally, the most extraordinary thing about the supermoon is the miraculous harvest it allows for coastal fishing enthusiasts. This is actually the only reliable prediction, no insult to Nostradamus of all stripes.

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