All-American Fourth of July Hay Moon

farm full moon

The Moon will be full on Sunday, July 5 at 12:44AM ET, which means it will look very full for the 4th of July tonight.  There may be fireworks where you live this year for Independence Day, but with pandemic still very much active in the United States, the sky might just be filled with a big Full Moon.

Tomorrow is also my younger son’s birthday. That big Moon will be shining on him in this strange 2020 when he celebrated his first Father’s Day. The summer solstice weekend was special for him and also an extra special day for me as a new grandfather.

There is a penumbral lunar eclipse. In my part of North America near New York, the eclipse begins July 4 at 11:07:23 pm but it ends July 5 at 1:52:21 am, so it bridges both days here. (Is it visible where you live?)

Honestly, a penumbral lunar eclipse is not very spectacular compared to other celestial events. It takes place when the Moon moves through the faint, outer part of Earth’s shadow, but this type of eclipse is often mistaken for a regular Full Moon.

The July Full Moon is most often called the Buck Moon, for the new antlers that emerge from a buck’s forehead around this time of the year. It is also called Thunder Moon, Mead Moon, Corn Moon, Huckleberry Moon, Time of Much Ripening and Salmon Moon.

This year I chose the Hay Moon as my title. This name came from the early American settlers who were harvesting, baling and storing hay for the winter. Many of our Full Moon names, such as Buck Moon, came from names used by the northeastern Algonquian Native American peoples that the first colonists encountered.

hay field
Image by Peter H from Pixabay

Happy 4th of Aphelion


It is July 4, 2020 and Earth is at aphelion. That means the planet is at its most distant point from the Sun. Here in Paradelle, it happened early this morning. Aphelion comes from the Greek words apo meaning away, off or apart and helios, for the Greek god of the Sun.

The fact that for most of the Northern Hemisphere it is a hot summer day today should make you realize that the distance of Earth from the sun is NOT what creates the seasons. The seasons result from Earth’s tilt on its axis and today the Northern Hemisphere is tilted most toward the Sun giving us the heat of summer.

Despite diagrams you may have seen, Earth’s orbit is not quite circular – but close – so the distance from the sun doesn’t change much. If you ask most people how far we are from the Sun, the common answer is 93 million miles (150 million km) which is our average distance. Today, Today we are about 3 million miles (5 million km) farther from away from when we are closest in about six months.

Dipping Into History in the Night Sky

The past few weeks have been more chaotic in America than the previous ten weeks of the pandemic due to protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Seeing a protest on television and hearing the crowd singing made me think of the old folk song “Follow the Drinking Gourd.”

Follow the drinking gourd,
For the old man is awaiting for to carry you to freedom
If you follow the drinking gourd.

The “drinking gourd” is literally a hollowed-out gourd used by slaves as a water dipper and also as a reference to the Big Dipper which pointed slaves North to what they hoped would be freedom and a new life.

plough big dipper

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you might look up tonight and look at this 7-star asterism that is part of the larger constellation Ursa Major (Great Bear). In summer, it looks like a water dipper (ladle) is scooping up the night sky.  Here in the northern U.S. the Big Dipper is circumpolar and always above the horizon.

You can see a bowl and a handle. The two outer stars of the bowl are “The Pointers.” Make a line connecting them and they point to Polaris, the North Star.

The protests this month have spread beyond  America. The Big Dipper didn’t guide slaves to freedom in other countries but people have looked up and noticed the star pattern since prehistory. In the U.K., the asterism is called The Plough or  The Wagon throughout much of Europe.

The Drinking Gourd may have led hopeful African-Americans to freedom in the North, but still today, even in northern cities like Minneapolis, the search continues.

An Upside-Down June Full Moon

lunar eclipse

Tonight our Moon is full. It will have a partial eclipse visible in some parts of the world, but not here in the U.S.  From out there in space, I don’t know if you would notice that this is an upside-down world.

There are those that believe that our world is truly upside-down. There are fictional versions of that world, as in the series Stranger Things where the Upside Down is an alternate dimension existing in parallel to the human world.

The June Full Moon is most often called the Rose or Strawberry Moon. I have written about it as the Moon of Mead  or Honey and about Moonshadows & Moonflowers and even as the Moon of Horses.

But in this upside-down world of 2020, maybe I should be thinking of this as if I was in the Southern Hemisphere instead of here in the north.  As a child, I imagined people down there were upside-down compared to us on the top half of the planet. June is autumn there and that still seems upside-down and that means this can be the Oak Moon, Cold Moon or the Long Night’s Moon.

Right now, we have no idea what autumn will be like in the north. Will students go back to classes? Will the COVID virus come back again? Will things return to some version of normal?

silvery moonBy the light of the silvery moon
I want to spoon
To my honey, I’ll croon
love’s tune
Honey moon,
keep a-shinin’ in June
Your silvery beams will bring love’s dreams
We’ll be cuddlin’ soon
By the silvery moon

That old-fashioned escapist lunar lyric is from “By The Light of the Silvery Moon,” written by Gus Edwards, with lyrics by Edward Madden for the Ziegfeld Follies of 1909. It has been recorded by many artists. A film of the same title was released in 1953, starring Doris Day. Moon, June, spoon, croon, soon is a musical lesson in bad rhyme. Or perhaps it’s just what we need right now – something light and hopeful.



The Sun and Moon in June

There will be a solar and a lunar eclipse in June, but neither of them will be visible in Paradelle. But the site analytics tell me that many of my readers are outside my area, so some of you will see them.

Once upon a time, people believed that an eclipse was a monster devouring the sun, or a punishment from the gods for human errors, or the prelude to the apocalypse.

The lunar eclipse is on June 5 and the majority of Europe, Asia, all of Africa, and a southeast portion of South America will be able to see it. The eclipse is visible at 5:45 UTC, a full eclipse at 7: 24, and the penumbral ending is at 9:04.

In Norse culture, the evil Loki took revenge on the gods that had chained him up by creating giant wolves that swallowed the Sun and chased the Moon trying to eat it.

The solar eclipse starts at 3:45 UTC on June 21st and the first people to see the full eclipse will be at 4:47 and maximum eclipse happens at 6:40. Of course, the eclipse moves across the globe and will be visible for parts of Africa, south/east Europe, much of China, the Pacific Islands, and north of Australia. There will be a partial eclipse in much of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The last location for the end of the full eclipse is at 8:32, and that for partial eclipse happens at 9:34.

In Tahitian mythology, the sun and Moon are lovers who join up and create the eclipse. They created stars in order to light their return back to normal times.


Aspects of the Moon

print 94
Our Moon was full this week. Regular readers of this blog know that I love that universe out there and follow celestial events near and far. The Moon is our closest contact with that outer space. We know the Moon more than we know the Sun (which is certainly much more critical to our existence). We have stood on the Moon. We watch it appear to change day by day. It helped us determine our calendar month.

cooling off at shijo

Artists have been drawing the Moon as long as we know by the art they left behind. Recently I read about a book titled One Hundred Aspects of the Moon. It is a collection of woodblock prints by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892). he was the most influential and prolific woodblock print artist of Meiji Japan.


He started creating the prints in 1885 and completed the series before his death in 1892. There are 100 images in the series. The images illustrate stories from history and legend and are unified by the motif of the moon, although the moon doesn’t appear in every print.

Printed in book form with explanatory text, they explain aspects of Japanese history and legend.

Yoshitoshi’s series One Hundred Aspects of the Moon consists of one hundred woodblocks, published in his later years, between 1885 -1892. Although the moon appears in only a few prints, it is a unifying motif for the whole series.

Yoshitoshi: One Hundred Aspects of the Moon Facsimile Edition

One Hundred Aspects of the Moon: by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi


In an earlier post, I discussed the influence that Japanese art had on Vincent van Gogh and other Impressionists.

painting 1