Look closely for the Buck Moon Eclipse after sunset on the 4th
If you’re looking for an encore after fireworks on the Fourth of July, gaze at the moon and watch it pass through the shadow of the Earth.
The sun, Earth and moon will align on Saturday night, giving skywatchers around the globe a chance to see one of the top astronomical events of the month.
On the night of July 4, the full moon will pass through part of Earth’s shadow, creating a lunar eclipse that will be visible across North America and South America. This will be the first lunar eclipse visible from this part of the world since 2019. People in some places in Africa and western Europe will also be able to see part of the eclipse.
The eclipse will be the perfect celestial event for those across the United States staying up late after Independence Day fireworks, as long as clouds don’t interfere.
The eclipse happens during the full moon, which in July is known as the Buck Moon as it is the time of year when the antlers on bucks are growing fast. July's full moon is sometimes also called the Thunder Moon due to the frequent thunderstorms this time of the year.
There are three types of lunar eclipses: a total lunar eclipse, a partial lunar eclipse and a penumbral lunar eclipse. Saturday night’s event will be the latter of the three.
In a penumbral lunar eclipse, the moon passes only through Earth’s outer shadow, called the penumbra, and misses the darker inner shadow, called the umbra.
“This third kind of lunar eclipse is much more subtle, and much more difficult to observe, than either a total or partial eclipse of the moon,” EarthSky explained on its website. “At best, at mid-eclipse, very observant people will notice a dark shading on the moon’s face.”
This is vastly different from a total lunar eclipse when the moon goes completely dark and can even take on a deep red or rusty orange color.
The first penumbral eclipse of moon of 2017 is seen in Lahore, Pakistan, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudhry)
Knowing what time to look up is key, especially since this eclipse will be difficult to notice.
The eclipse will get underway on July 4 at 11:07 p.m. EDT and continue until July 5 at 1:52 a.m. EDT, but the best time to look will be during the middle of the event.
The shaded corner of the moon will be most evident around 12:30 a.m. EDT, just about mid-eclipse, before the moon gradually drifts out of the Earth’s shadow.
Folks across the western U.S. are expected to enjoy the best viewing conditions on Saturday night for watching the lunar eclipse and any firework displays. Mainly clear conditions will also lead to uninterrupted viewing from the mid-Atlantic through Texas.
Clouds could be an issue for much of the rest of the U.S. mainland, especially across the Deep South, New England and the northern Plains where thick clouds and rain will block out the night sky.
In coastal areas of Texas, Saharan dust may obscure the moon at times.
Other areas of the continent will have some clouds around throughout the night, but there should be enough breaks for people to catch occasional glimpses of the darkened moon throughout the eclipse.
The eclipse will be the main event in the night sky this weekend, but people may also want to look toward the moon on Sunday night as it shines extremely close to Jupiter and Saturn.
Look for the moon next to Saturn and Jupiter after sunset on July 5, 2020. (NASA)
The three will be bunched together all night long with the trio rising in the southeasterly sky around 10 p.m. local time.
After this weekend, stargazers will need to wait until the night of Nov. 30 for the next opportunity to watch the moon pass through the Earth’s shadow. This too will be a penumbral lunar eclipse, but it will be visible over a larger area of land, including the Americas, Australia and eastern Asia.
The next total lunar eclipse is set to take place on May 26, 2021, and, similar to the eclipse in November, it will be visible over most of the Americas, Australia and eastern Asia.
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