This Fourth of July, fireworks won’t be the only thing in the night sky worth gawking at. A partial penumbral lunar eclipse will also be visible in all but one state, a calm palette cleanser after the sensory overload of patriotic explosions subsides.
The eclipse will begin at 12:44 a.m. in the eastern time zone, and it will last for two hours, 44 minutes, and 58 seconds. The moon will be dimmer than usual as the penumbra, the more diffuse outer shadow of the Earth cast by the sun, falls across its face.
Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, the western half of Montana, all but the southern tip of Nevada, and California north of Los Angeles will only be able to see part of the eclipse, as the moon will be below the horizon for part of the eclipse. Alaska is missing out entirely, but folks in the rest of the country will be able to see the whole thing.
Saturday’s phenomenon will also be referred to as a Buck Moon eclipse because of the name given to the July full moon by the Algonquin Native American tribe. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, the moniker was chosen because July is typically when young male deer begin to grow antlers.
July’s full moon is also known as the Thunder Moon in honor of summer thunderstorms and the Hay Moon as a marker of the haymaking that happens during the summer.
No matter what you call it, this weekend’s eclipse is fortuitously timed. It’s a night when people are already outside, staring at the sky, and given our ongoing isolation at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s nice to have a natural spectacle to gaze at alongside the manmade bombast of Independence Day pyrotechnics.