Thanks to This Event, the Shortest Night of the Year is Approaching

Thanks to This Event, the Shortest Night of the Year is Approaching

2024 has been stellar for astronomy enthusiasts, offering glimpses of meteor showers, supermoons, northern lights, and even a total solar eclipse in some regions. But the celestial show isn't over yet. According to experts, more incredible astronomical events are on the horizon.

June 21: The Great 'Lunar Standstill'

One of the fascinating events, the 'lunar standstill' is set to occur on June 21. This phenomenon happens approximately every 18.6 years and involves the Moon and Earth appearing at their most extreme positions. The Moon's path is different from the Sun's, creating this unique spectacle. Interestingly, when you gaze at the sky, it seems like the Moon stops moving, but this is just an optical illusion.

During the 'lunar standstill,' the Moon, like the Sun, rises in the east and sets in the west. However, on this special day, the Moon rises and sets at its most northern and southern points. It also reaches its highest and lowest positions in the night sky. This is due to the tilt of the Moon's orbit relative to the ecliptic plane.

What Is The Best Viewing Time?

The event coincides with the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, making June 21 the shortest night of the year. The best time to witness this rare event is during moonrise and sunset, especially when the Moon is full. According to National Geographic, the full Moon on June 21 will shine brightly, adding to the spectacle of the summer solstice.

The 'lunar standstill' has piqued the interest of the scientific community, particularly to Stonehenge. Researchers from English Heritage, alongside experts from the University of Oxford, the University of Leicester, Bournemouth University, and the Royal Astronomical Society, are launching a project to investigate how Stonehenge aligns with the Moon during this event.

Jennifer Wexler, a historian with English Heritage, expressed excitement about the project: "We are thrilled to work with a team of archaeoastronomers to explore the link between Stonehenge and the 'lunar standstill.' This rare opportunity allows us to delve into the ancient mysteries of the monument and its celestial connections."

Astronomers and archaeologists will observe the sky from Stonehenge to see if the ancient structure was built to align with this rare lunar event. Kellogg College archaeologist from the University of Oxford highlighted the goal: "We aim to understand what it was like to experience these extreme moon rises and sets. We will study the visual effects on the stones, such as light and shadow patterns, and consider modern influences like traffic and trees. All observations will be documented for future research."

How to Observe the 'Lunar Standstill'

The great 'lunar standstill' can be seen without binoculars or a telescope, provided the sky is clear. This makes it accessible for anyone interested in experiencing this astronomical wonder. So, mark your calendars for June 21 and prepare to witness one of the year's most spectacular celestial events.