Bad luck! Mumbaikars miss strawberry moon due to monsoon clouds

Jun 21, 2016, 08:20 IST | Gaurav Sarkar

The summer solstice coincided with the strawberry moon yesterday, but the rain and cloudy weather played spoilsport for Mumbaikars

For the first time in 70 years yesterday, the summer solstice coincided with the ‘strawberry moon’. But due to the cloudy weather, Mumbaikars were unable to witness the phenomenon.

The June full moon is more commonly known as the strawberry moon. Pic for representation
The June full moon is more commonly known as the strawberry moon. Pic for representation

The summer solstice, which usually occurs between June 20-22 every year, signifies the longest day on earth i.e. the day with the most hours of sunlight.

The June full moon, more commonly known as the strawberry moon — a full moon that occurs in June which was named so by native Americans as it marked the peak of the strawberry picking season, coincided with the summer solstice yesterday, making the event a once-in-a-lifetime happening.

“Over the period of one year, the sun’s movement is between up and down,” said Mayank Walia, professor at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (Astronomy Department.). “Yesterday, it was in its northernmost point, which means it was in the sky for the longest time and the day was the longest. Both, the sun and the moon, were at their respective highest points in the sky yesterday which is what made the day special, and a rarity that occurs once in 70 years.”

“People living along the Tropic of Cancer (like in Ahmedabad) experienced a zero shadow day yesterday, and all cities south of it, would have had their longest shadow yesterday,” pointed out Walia.

“So if you looked at Mumbai buildings at around noon, they would have had their longest southern shadow yesterday,” he added.

A coincidence
Walia also pointed out that although the moon looked tinted and very pretty, this overlapping of the solstice and full moon was nothing but an astronomical coincidence. “From a professional point of view this was just amusing; it did not reveal any new or interesting information,” he said. “We didn’t view it from our institute either because it is not something of great astronomical significance —not in the 21st century.”

Arvind Paranjpye, director, Nehru Planetarium said, “The planets and satellites go around a certain orbit. It just so happened that this time when we had a summer solstice, we also had a full moon. This particular full moon, which also coincided closely with gurupurnima, had no scientific significance; it was just another full moon. Since we were having very healthy rainfall yesterday in Mumbai, most people probably would not have been able to even see the full moon rising in the eastern horizon in the evening, simultaneously, as the sun was setting.”

Historical significance
According to Walia, the summer solstice was used in ancient times as an indicator of monsoons being just around the corner.

“This was a time when people realized that the sun is at its peak and will start going down soon,” he said. “So when farmers knew they were 10-15 days of the summer solstice period, they would start sowing seeds.”

He also pointed out that the solstice marks the commencement of Dakshinayana i.e. the southern movement of the sun, in Sanskrit mythology.

Longest day
Mumbai experienced 13 hours and 16 minute of sunlight yesterday, from 6:02 am to 7:19 pm

Midnight sun
In the North Pole, the sun will not set at all for 24 hours, but instead, go a complete circle in the sky. This is known as the midnight sun, said Mayank Walia, professor at TIFR.

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