Fireworks shows may be canceled on Saturday, but there will still be a show to look for in the night sky — a lunar eclipse. According to NASA, this Fourth of July there will be a prenumbral lunar eclipse beginning at 11:07 p.m. ET. The eclipse will reach its peak at around 12:30 a.m. ET.
The entire lunar eclipse will be visible throughout most of the United States, as well as South America and much of Africa. The astronomical action may not be as extreme as a fireworks show, but it provides some sense of shared experience and awe for a population stuck in lockdown amid the coronavirus crisis. However, it is worth noting that a penumbral lunar eclipse is different from a total lunar eclipse — just to set expectations appropriately.
A full Moon lights up the night this Independence Day.
Called the Buck, Hay, or Thunder⛈️ Moon, this full Moon is also a penumbral lunar eclipse! In the Americas, you might see a slight darkening as 30% of the Moon passes through the outer part of Earth's shadow. ☀️🌎🌕 pic.twitter.com/KfP09t0CQS— NASA Moon (@NASAMoon) July 4, 2020
According to a report by WLOS 13, this type of eclipse is named for the penumbra shape that the shadow that the earth will cast on the moon. As the earth comes between the moon and the sun, the eclipse will look different depending on where you view it from. This will also be a partial eclipse, so parts of the moon will be visible throughout.
According to NASA, the end result will be a subtle gradient, where the moon will be visible but noticeable obscured. After the eclipse, the full moon will then be totally visible after about 12:44 p.m. ET. This type of moon is colloquially referred to as a Buck Moon, a Thunder Moon or a Rose Moon.
The eclipse ensures that there is something unique about Independence Day, in a year when many people feel that the holiday is lackluster. The next time a full moon coincides with the Fourth of July will not be until 2031, so this is a rare experience indeed.
Understandably, many people would trade it in for a normal festival, parade or barbecue, culminating in a packed fireworks show. Sadly, many of the biggest cities in the country have canceled their fireworks altogether, fearing that it would draw huge crowds out of quarantine and lead to the spread of the coronavirus.
Some cities are still hosting fireworks shows, though they may be seriously altered to conform with public health recommendations. In many cases, this means that spectators will have to watch from inside their cars, paying to park in designated places. A few cities are asking that people simply watch from home, not allowing public gatherings at all.
Meanwhile, other cities are doing their best to make up for the lack of fireworks with a live stream or other online events. As creative as some of these feats are, they are getting mixed reviews on social media.