The weather might have been a bit tumultuous lately, but we’re about to get rewarded for it in the form of a Thunder Moon lunar eclipse.
We’re getting ready to see two phenomenons coming together at once. First, the Full Moon, otherwise known as the Thunder Moon – known as such ‘because thunderstorms are so frequent during this month’, according to Old Farmer’s Almanac – or Buck Moon, known as such by early Native American tribes because the male buck deer would begin to grow their new antlers at this time of year.
The second phenomenon is the penumbral lunar eclipse. While we’ve all likely heard of the Full Moon, we’re less likely to have ever witnessed a penumbral lunar eclipse, as it’s much more subtle and more difficult to observe in the sky than, say, a total or partial eclipse of the moon.
This type of eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the Earth’s partial shadow, or penumbra. During a penumbral lunar eclipse the moon will darken slightly but not completely, hence it’s so difficult to spot.
If you’re lucky (and willing to get up at the crack of dawn), you’ll be able to witness the phenomenon on Sunday, July 5, with the Full Moon being illuminated at 4.44am UTC (5.44am BST). At this time, the moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be fully illuminated.
The eclipse will be trickier to spot but if you’re up for the challenge, it will be visible throughout most of North America, South America, the eastern Pacific Ocean, the western Atlantic Ocean, and extreme western Africa.
Be warned though: at best, at mid-eclipse, very observant people will notice a dark shading on the moon’s face. Others will notice nothing at all. As a result, next month’s lunar eclipse will not be a Blood Moon, which happens when Earth’s Moon is in a total lunar eclipse.
Around this time last year, astronomy fans were treated to a Half-Blood Moon as a result of a partial lunar eclipse, whereby only a section of the moon passed through Earth’s inner shadow.
That meant that around half of the moon took on a red tint, whereas a proper Blood Moon would make whole thing change colour – if only for a little while.
Unfortunately, we’ve got quite a long time to wait on that front, almost a whole year in fact, with the next Blood Moon eclipse falling on May 26, 2021.