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Fireworks won’t be the only reason to watch the skies on July 4th

Published Jul 2nd, 2020 3:23PM EDT
july 4th eclipse
Image: NASA

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  • A faint eclipse will happen on the night of July 4th for those in the Americas and small sections of Africa, Spain, and Portugal.
  • The eclipse will happen just after midnight, Eastern Time, but it will be so faint that you might not even notice a difference.
  • The Moon will only slightly change in brightness, and only those with keen eyesight may notice the shadow creeping over it.

July 4th is Independence Day here in the United States. Typically that means a lot of fireworks and family celebrations, but those may be tempered a bit by the ongoing public health crisis. Nevertheless, if you find yourself outside on the night of July 4th, gazing skyward, you might notice a full Moon. But that’s not all; a partial eclipse is also slated to happen on that same night, but it will be so incredibly subtle that you may not even realize it’s happening.

As EarthSky reports, the partial penumbral eclipse will happen at the same time no matter where you happen to be on Earth, but those of us in the Americas will have the best chance of seeing it because it’ll be nice and dark and the Moon will be situated high above the horizon.

A penumbral eclipse happens when the sunlight on the Moon is only slightly obscured by Earth’s shadow. In this case, the edge of the shadow will be so light that it may be hard to notice a difference when it happens. Only those with particularly keen eyes will clearly see it happening, while others might just stare hopelessly and not notice much of anything.

Unfortunately for much of the rest of the world, the Moon will still be sitting below the horizon when the eclipse takes place, making it impossible to view it. Only very specific regions of the rest of the globe will have a chance, and even then, the odds are slim.

“From the westernmost parts of Africa, people might spot this partial penumbral eclipse just before dawn July 5, but for most of the eclipse area in western Africa (and Spain and Portugal), the eclipse will be obscured by the glow of morning twilight,” EarthSky says.

With all the other things going on in the sky on the evening of July 4th here in the United States — I’m talking about fireworks, of course — it’s going to be easy to miss the celestial event taking place high above our heads. Still, dedicated skywatchers may notice the slight eclipse during the peak of the eclipse, which will occur between 12:30 a.m. and 1:00 a.m. ET on July 5th.

It might not be the most exciting skywatching event of the year, but if nothing else it will give you a chance to test your eyes and see if you can detect the faint change in the luminosity of the light bouncing off of Earth’s tiny neighbor.

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