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The Buzz

After Fireworks Displays, Keep Your Eyes On The Skies For Penumbral Lunar Eclipse




July's full moon will be the night of July 5. A penumbral lunar eclipse will also occur that night. (Photo via Shutterstock)

There's plenty to see in the night sky in July, and it's not just fireworks. Once the smoke clears from the annual displays of patriotic pride, you'll be able to catch a glimpse of the penumbral lunar eclipse on July 4 into July 5, as long as the weather cooperates.

Eclipses occur when the moon, Earth and the sun line up in space and Earth's shadow is cast on the moon, according to EarthSky. During a penumbral lunar eclipse, only the outer shadow of Earth is visible on the moon's face, so it is much more subtle and less noticeable than a total lunar eclipse or even a partial lunar eclipse.

During the July penumbral eclipse, the moon will appear darker, as if in a shadow, but it won't be a show-stopper like a total or partial eclipse can be. The eclipse will begin at 10:07 p.m. July 4, then reach its maximum point at 11:29 p.m. It will officially end at 12:52 a.m. July 5.

This is the third penumbral lunar eclipse this year, but the first that's been visible in North America, according to Space.com. A fourth penumbral lunar eclipse of 2020 will occur in November, and it, too, will be visible in North America.

And since lunar eclipses can only occur when the moon is full, the night of July 4 into early July 5 is also when this month's full moon will happen. The July full moon is called the buck moon, because it is the month when many bucks begin developing their new antlers, according to the Farmers' Almanac. Other nicknames for the July full moon include the hay moon and the thunder moon, because thunderstorms are common in July.

Three meteor showers kick off in July, including the Perseids, the most popular of all the annual meteor showers because of how many meteors it produces and the quality of the shooting stars. The Perseids meteor shower officially begins July 17, but its peak — the best time for viewing the shootings stars — won't be until August, according to the American Meteor Society.

Neither of the other two meteor showers starting this month is considered a big producer of meteors in the northern hemisphere. The alpha Capricornids run from July 3 until August 15, but it is a weak meteor shower that typically only produces a few meteors an hour, the American Meteor Society reports. The southern delta Aquariids meteor shower runs from July 12 until August 23, and while it's a stronger shower, it is best viewed in the southern tropics. 

July also includes some good opportunities for viewing planets in the night sky. On July 14, Jupiter will be at opposition, meaning it is opposite the sun in the sky. The exact moment of opposition will be at 3 a.m. Central time July 14. This event happens about once a year, according to EarthSky.

Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system, and it is always bright in the night sky. When Jupiter is at opposition, it is at its closest point to Earth and is visible in the sky for most of the night.

Just a few days after Jupiter's opposition, Saturn will reach its opposition on July 20. The exact moment Saturn will be opposite the sun will be at 5 p.m. Central time July 20. During the time around its opposition, Saturn is visible in the sky all night, EarthSky reports. This year, it will be a new moon the night of Saturn's opposition, creating optimal viewing conditions. 

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