How to view the ‘Buck Moon’ lunar eclipse this Fourth of July weekend

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Despite many stories circulating about a lunar eclipse coinciding with the full moon on Independence Day, the view will not amount to much.

While a lunar eclipse will occur during tonight’s full moon at 12:44 a.m., tonight’s eclipse is a penumbral lunar eclipse.

Like every lunar eclipse, the earth will pass between the moon and the sun. When this happens, the earth casts two shadows toward the moon called the umbra and penumbra.

Credit: NASA

During an umbra lunar eclipse, the darker of the two shadows is cast on the moon. Furthermore, this can either be a total or partial umbra eclipse. A total umbra eclipse results in the entire moon being covered by the darkest shadow and sometimes turning the moon a dark red or orange.

A partial umbra eclipse looks like the moon has a bite taken out of it because the darkest shadow only coves part of the moon.

The other shadow the earth casts is called the penumbra shadow. It is considerably lighter in general and gets even fainter the farther away from the umbra you go. It typically results in just a slight gradient of faint shading on the moon’s surface.

Tonight’s lunar eclipse in particular will barely be noticeable, if at all, even to the sharpest of eyes. This is because the penumbra shadow will barely eclipse the edge of the moon. So in the end, the brightness of the full moon will likely overpower the extremely faint shading of the penumbra on the moon’s surface.

Don’t be too disappointed though, the July full moon will still be a bright sight in the night sky. It is known as the Buck moon or the Thunder Moon. According to the Farmer’s almanac, a buck’s antlers are just about full grown during July. Even more relevant for us here in Florida, the thunderstorms become frequent each day as rainy season is well underway.

Although it will be hard to see, you can find the best viewing window for your location by clicking here. The map below shows visibility for the globe. 

(Source: F. Espenak/NASA)

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