Lunar Eclipse, Aphelion Day – and Another Scorcher

Bill's Blog

July 4 was the 244th birthday of the U.S.A. The Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.

We’ve had a full moon. The full moon of July is called the “Buck Moon”. It was at its fullest at 12:44 am EDT. Being close to the Summer Solstice, the moon rises in the east-southeast, climbs to about midway up in the southern sky, then retreats to set in the west-southwest.

Eclipse graphic from NASA

This year we had a lunar eclipse, but it’s hardly a spectacular one. In fact, you probably didn’t notice any change in the moon. This was a partial penumbral eclipse with only a faint shadow of the Earth falling on the moon. The eclipse started at 11:07 p.m. EDT It reached its maximum — the point where the greatest percentage of the moon will be covered in the penumbra — at 12:29 a.m. EDT on July 5 (Sunday). Then, 2 hours and 45 minutes after it began, the eclipse ended at 1:52 a.m. EDT. 

We also have Comet NEOWISE – which is at peak brightness, but still too hard to see with the naked eye.

Today is aphelion day

Saturday was also Aphelion Day – the day when the Earth is farthest away from the sun. Earth’s orbit around the sun is not a perfect circle. It’s oval or an ellipse. The earth comes closest to the sun (91,402,639 miles) in the first week of January and goes farthest away (94,508,072 miles) here in the first week of July.

This sounds backwards, I know. If we get closer to the sun in January, why is January the coldest month and July the warmest? The main reason is the much higher angle of the sun at this time of year (up to 70° above the southern horizon at noon on the Summer Solstice, compared to 24° around New Year’s Day). The second reason is the much longer daylight at this time of year (15 hours and 15 minutes – compared to just 9 hours and one minute at the Winter Solstice).

One more thing…did you know that in the Northern Hemisphere, summer is longer than winter. The opposite is true in the Southern Hemisphere. The Earth travels around the sun at about 67,000 mph. However, the Earth speeds up a little bit when it’s closer to the sun in winter and slows down as touch when it’s farther away from the sun in summer. Think about it. July and August both have 31 days…February has only 28 days (29 in as leap year). In general, in the Northern Hemisphere, winter is 89 days, spring is 93 days, summer is 94 days and fall is 90 days.

Shining bright in the late evening sky and to the left of the moon is bright Jupiter and to the left of Jupiter, the planet Saturn. Sunday night, Jupiter will be at about 1 o’clock from the moon and Saturday at 10 o’clock. Venus shines brightly in the east just before daybreak. Here’s when you can see the International Space Station flyover. Great views at 5:18 am on 7/14 and 10:50 pm on 7/15. Here’s some neat springtime aurora pics.

It’ll be another mostly sunny and hot day in West Michigan this Saturday with most high temps. in the low-mid 90s. Once again it will be cooler at Lake Michigan. Here’s Friday’s high temps: 95° Lansing, 94° Grand Rapids, Fremont, Alma and Mt. Pleasant, 93° Kalamazoo, Ionia, 92° Big Rapids and Charlotte, 91° Battle Creek, Marshall and Jackson, 90° Cadillac, Muskegon (airport) and Coldwater, 87° Holland, 85° Benton Harbor Airport, 84° South Haven Airport, 78° Muskegon Beach, 77° South Haven Beach.

Water temps. early Sat. AM: 81° Reeds Lake, 68° Holland State Park, 73° Port Sheldon buoy, 77° Holland buoy.

Also: While the Great Lakes are hot, the Pacific NW is cool. With a high of 66° at Sea-Tac Airport, the 1st 3 days of July in Seattle have had a high in the 60s (66°, 67°, 66°). Last time there was a colder 1st 3 days of July in Seattle, 2010 ( 62°, 65° ,68° ).

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