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]

A Full Harvest Moon Is Coming in September

suerob/iStock via Getty Images
suerob/iStock via Getty Images

The Old Farmer's Almanac lists a special name for every month's full moon, from January's wolf moon to December's cold moon. Even if you're just a casual astronomy fan, you've likely heard the name of September's full moon. The harvest moon is the full moon that falls closest to the fall equinox, and it's associated with festivals celebrating the arrival of autumn. Here's what you need to know before catching the event this year.

What is a harvest moon?

You may have heard that the harvest moon is special because it appears larger and darker in the night sky. This may be true depending on what time of night you look at it, but these features are not unique to the harvest moon.

Throughout the year, the moon rises on average 50 minutes later each night than it did the night before. This window shrinks in the days surrounding the fall equinox. In mid-latitudes, the moon will rise over the horizon only 25 minutes to 30 minutes later night after night. This means the moonrise will occur around sunset several evenings in a row.

So what does this mean for the harvest moon? If you're already watching the sunset and you catch the moonrise at the same time, it will appear bigger than usual thanks to something called the moon illusion. It may also take on an orange-y hue because you're gazing at it through the thick filter of the Earth's atmosphere, which absorbs blue light and projects red light. So if you've only seen the full harvest moon around sunset, you may think it always looks especially big and orange, while in reality, any full moon will look that way when it's just above the horizon.

When to See the Harvest Moon

This year, the harvest moon will be visible the night of Saturday, September 14—about a week before the fall equinox on September 23. The moon will reach its fullest state at 12:33 a.m. ET—but if you're still convinced it's not a true harvest moon without that pumpkin-orange color, you can look for it at moonrise at 7:33 p.m. on September 13.

The Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks Next Week—Here's How to Boost Your Chance of Seeing a Shooting Star

wisanuboonrawd/iStock via Getty Images
wisanuboonrawd/iStock via Getty Images

The Perseids—the most reliable and often the most dazzling meteor shower of the year—have been visible from Earth since July. Usually, each year around mid-August, the meteor shower peaks at around 60 or more shooting stars blazing across the sky every hour. In 2019, the spectacle occurs just days apart from a full moon, which will make it more difficult to view compared to previous years. But if you know when and were to look, you can boost your chances of catching a glimpse of the event.

When to See the Perseid Meteor Shower

As Business Insider reports, the Perseids are set to peak the night of Monday, August 12 into the morning of August 13. Just two days later on August 15, August's full moon (also called a sturgeon moon) will light up the night's sky. That means the Moon will already be significantly big and bright on Monday night and wash out many fainter shooting stars that would otherwise be visible.

But that's no reason to stay indoors at night. Though you probably won't see 100 or even 60 shooting stars per hour as have been recorded in the past, you may still be able to see the brightest meteors in the light of the large Moon. Fireballs—extra bright meteors like the one that was reported over New England last month—will be easiest to spot.

How to Watch the Perseid Meteor Shower

To maximize your chances of catching the Perseids this year, look up on the night of August 11. The shower won't quite have reached its peak by then, but skies will be darker than they're expected to be later in the week. The Moon sets at 3 a.m. that night, and any time after that will give you your best shot at seeing a shooting star. Any meteors will appear to originate in the northeastern sky from the direction of the constellation Perseus, but they can be spotted anywhere.

If you don't have any luck on your first try, there's no harm heading outside the night of the shower's peak on the 12th. Anytime after midnight is generally the best time for meteor-viewing.

[h/t Business Insider]

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