A Half-Blood Thunder Moon Will Light Up Tonight’s Sky

Matt Cardy, Stringer/Getty Images
Matt Cardy, Stringer/Getty Images

Today, July 16, 2019, marks 50 years since NASA launched the Apollo 11 lunar mission. In case you needed another reason to look up at the sky on this date, tonight's Moon will be a special one. It's the only full moon of July, and in some parts of the world, it will appear partially eclipsed, making for a rare half-blood thunder moon, according to Space.com.

The meaning of the name thunder moon has nothing to do with lightening and storm clouds. The full moon of each month of the calendar year is given a special nickname from folklore. January's is a wolf moon, March's is a worm moon, and June's is a strawberry moon. The full moon that appears in July is commonly called a thunder moon, because thunderstorms are frequent this time of year, but it can also be referred to as buck moon because July is when deer antlers are at their fullest.

There's another factor that makes tonight's Moon worth watching. Starting at 2:43 p.m. EDT, the Moon will enter a partial lunar eclipse. That means part of the full moon will pass through the shadow of the Earth, making one section of it appear darker than the rest. A full lunar eclipse is known as a blood moon due to the reddish hue it takes on in our planet's shadow. Tonight's event isn't a full eclipse, so it's being called a half-blood moon even though it may not take on a coppery tone. The partial lunar eclipse will reach its peak at 5:30 p.m. EDT, and conclude at 8:17 p.m. Unfortunately that means the eclipse won't be visible from the U.S., but spectators in Europe, Africa, South America, and parts of Asia will get to see the full show.

July is shaping up to be an exciting month for stargazers. On July 9, Saturn reached opposition, making it look especially large and bright in the night sky. The planet is no longer at peak visibility, but it will be easy to spot with the naked eye from now through September. If you're already planning at looking up at the Moon tonight, here's how to find Saturn at the same time.

[h/t Space.com]

The Wolf Moon, 2020’s First Full Moon, Coincides With a Lunar Eclipse

kirstypargeter/iStock via Getty Images
kirstypargeter/iStock via Getty Images

The first full moon—known as the wolf moon, since wolves supposedly howl more during the winter when food is scarce—is going to be a little extra special this year.

What is the wolf moon eclipse?

According to Newsweek, 2020’s wolf moon coincides with a penumbral lunar eclipse, which occurs when the moon enters Earth’s outer shadow, or penumbra. Because the penumbra is a wider, lighter shadow than the umbra, which is in Earth’s direct wake, this isn’t the most striking type of eclipse. During its peak, the moon will simply appear a little less bright. To see the characteristic reddish-orange “blood moon” of a total lunar eclipse, when the moon does pass into the Earth’s umbra, we’ll have to wait until May 26, 2021.

Where to See the Wolf Moon Eclipse

Since this Friday’s eclipse happens during the day in North and South America, most people in the U.S. won’t be able to catch the show. If you live in Europe, Asia, Africa, or Australia, however, you can see the moon in all its glorious dimness when the sun sets on Friday, January 10. Forbes reports that the eclipse will begin at 12:07 p.m. EST (5:07 p.m. UTC) and reach maximum eclipse at 2:10 p.m. EST (7:10 p.m. UTC).

If you do live in North or South America, it’s still worth a skyward glance when night falls on January 10—even a regular full moon is pretty spectacular. You’ll get a chance to see a penumbral lunar eclipse for yourself on July 5.

[h/t Newsweek]

The Quadrantid Meteor Shower Is Coming in 2020—Here’s How to See It

Kurguzova/iStock via Getty Images
Kurguzova/iStock via Getty Images

If your New Year’s resolution is to spend more time appreciating the wonders of space, you won’t have to wait very long to put your plans into action: 2020’s first meteor shower is coming between January 3 and January 4.

According to Inverse, the Quadrantid meteor shower consists of fireball meteors, which shine brighter and bolder than other meteors because they’re made from larger particles of matter. And since the moon won’t be visible during the Quadrantids's peak, the already-bright meteors won’t have to compete with moonlight.

They will, however, have to compete with your habit of being soundly asleep in the middle of the night. The International Meteor Organization predicts that the shower’s peak will occur around 3 a.m. EST on January 4, and only last for about four hours [PDF]. It will take place in the northern part of the sky, so your chances of seeing the shower are better if you live in the Northern Hemisphere.

The meteor shower was named the Quadrantids because its radiant point—or the location in the sky from which the meteors seem to originate—was in a now-obsolete constellation called the Quadrans Muralis, identified in 1795 by French astronomer Jérôme Lalande and then omitted from the International Astronomical Union’s list of constellations in 1922.

Luckily, there are a couple other recognizable landmarks, so to speak, to help you figure out where to direct your gaze come next Friday night. According to EarthSky, the Quadrantids’s updated radiant point is near Arcturus, the brightest star of the Bootes constellation, and it’s also not far from the Big Dipper.

In 2003, astronomer Peter Jenniskens suggested that the Quadrantids’s parent body was the asteroid 2003 EH1, rather than an icy comet like many other meteor showers. Though we don’t know if that’s true, we are pretty sure about one thing: The chance to ring in the new year with a fireball sighting is worth losing a little sleep over.

[h/t Inverse]

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