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Supermoons return this summer, starting with 'strawberry' full moon

This month's full moon has many names, and one might be tied to an ancient European tradition.

The first of this summer's supermoons returns this week — and it has a sweet name. If the sky stays clear, you'll be able to see the Strawberry Moon Tuesday night. 

The moon technically reaches peak fullness Tuesday morning, but it'll look full through Wednesday night. 

What is a supermoon?

The moon's orbit around the earth is an ellipse, not a perfect circle. A full moon is considered a supermoon when it comes within 90% of perigee, its closest point to Earth. 

According to NASA, the closest supermoons appear "about 17 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter" than the furthest, faintest moon of the year. That 17% isn't actually enough to make the moon look noticeably bigger, but NASA says supermoons are still a bit brighter than other full moons. 

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The perigee is about 226,000 miles from Earth — about 25,000 miles closer than the moon's furthest point. 

While it's popularly used to describe the closest full moons, "supermoon" isn't an official astronomical term. In fact, it was coined by an astrologer in 1979. 

When are the supermoons in 2022?

Only three or four supermoons happen each year, always in a series. After Tuesday, the next supermoon of 2022 rises on Wednesday, July 13. 

The perigee varies with each orbit and not every publication agrees on which moons count as supermoons. NASA says the June and July full moons are definitely considered supermoons. The Old Farmer's Almanac says the last supermoon of the year will rise on August 11, but other publications may not count it as within 90% of the perigee.

RELATED: Top skywatching events of 2022 you don't want to miss

A moon of many names

Each full moon has a set of nicknames, popularized by farmer's almanacs and connected to the seasons when they take place. 

NASA says such almanacs attribute the June "strawberry moon" to the Algonquin tribes of what is now the northeastern U.S. The name refers to the short strawberry season in the region. 

NASA says this month's full moon has another "sweet" name from an old European tradition: The Mead or Honey Moon. Mead is a fermented drink made with honey, and the name could come from summer honey harvests. 

"The tradition of calling the first month of marriage the 'honeymoon' may be tied to this full moon because of the custom of marrying in June or because the 'Honey Moon' is the 'sweetest' Moon of the year," NASA's website says. 

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