July 19, 2024
How to observe the first “great lunar standstill” in 18 years

How to observe the first “great lunar standstill” in 18 years

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The “great lunar standstill” begins. It is the first event of its kind in over 18 years. The effects are also felt on Earth.

Munich – Events are happening in quick succession. Just one day after the summer solstice in 2024, the next astronomical event will begin: the “great lunar standstill”. This is the period in which the moon – in June 2024 it will be the strawberry moon – rises and sets at its outermost point on the horizon, but at the same time reaches its highest and lowest point in the sky, as livescience.com reported. The earth is directly affected by the consequences.

First “major lunar standstill” since 2006

The phenomenon occurs approximately every 18.6 years. The last “great lunar standstill” was in 2006. The event occurs when Earth and Moon tilts are at their maximum, with the Moon rising and setting at the very edge of its range, rising at its highest northeastern point and setting at its highest northwestern point.

The movement of the moon

The moon orbits the earth in an elliptical orbit. The orbit is inclined to the earth’s orbit at an angle of around 5.2 degrees. The inclination of the moon’s orbit to the earth’s orbit means that the moon crosses the earth twice in one orbit: from south to north in the ascending node and from north to south in the descending node.

Although the inclination of the moon’s orbit changes only slightly, its position – i.e. the direction of the nodes – changes quite quickly. It takes around 18.6 years for each node to complete one orbit around the earth in the opposite direction to the moon’s orbit.

Source: Vienna Working Group for Astronomy

During this period, it will also rise at its southeastern point and set at its southwesternmost point. The great lunar standstill will be at its most extreme on the so-called equinoxes in September 2024 and March 2025, i.e. the two calendar days of the year when day and night are approximately the same length.

Lunar standstill affects duration of illumination – historical site aligned with lunar standstill

The standstill affects the length of time the moon is in the sky at night. If the moon rises further northeast in the Northern Hemisphere, it will rise higher in the sky and stay there longer. It would shine in a noticeably different position than if the moon were slightly stationary, which is the time when the rising and setting areas are closest together.

First lunar standstill in 18 years begins.
Approximately every 18 years there is a “great lunar standstill” – this can intensify the tides. © IMAGO/Manuel Romano

Stonehenge, Callanish and Newgrange: Some significant historical sites such as Stonehenge, Callanish and Newgrange are even said to be aligned with moonrise and moonset points of a major lunar standstill.

According to NASA, lunar movement in combination with climate change is causing numerous floods

The effects of the moon on the earth have long been known. That is why the phenomenon of lunar standstill has long been proven. According to a study by NASA’s Sea Level Change Science Team at the University of Hawaii, the moon could cause numerous floods in the coming years in combination with climate change. The results were published in the journal “Nature Climate Change” published.

In it, the researchers explain that although the tides are weaker during the first half of the lunar cycle of around 18.6 years, they are significantly stronger in the second half of the cycle. “The combination of the moon’s gravitational pull, rising sea levels and climate change will further exacerbate flooding on our coasts and around the world,” said NASA administrator Bill Nelson in reference to the study.

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