Three's a Charm! Eclipse, Comet and Full Moon All Set to Make an Appearance on Friday Night
One cosmic event in one night is enough to get the world looking at the skies. Two is quite special. Three is a spectacularly rare treat -- and it's happening this Friday, Feb. 10.
According to a report from The Telegraph, people stargazing on this evening will be able to catch a triple threat in the heavens that includes a penumbra lunar eclipse, a "snow moon" and the New Year comet.
Penumbra Lunar Eclipse
This one is the only lunar eclipse that's visible in North America this year, so those who are curious would do well to catch a glimpse, a report from Phys Org revealed. However, don't expect the penumbra lunar eclipse to be as striking as a total or even a partial lunar eclipse.
During an eclipse, the Earth gets in between the sun and the moon, shrouding the moon from the sun's light. In a penumbra lunar eclipse, the moon simply passes through the "penumbra" or the outer shadow of the planet and not the "umbra" or the much darker inner shadow. This coming eclipse on Feb. 10 will only be flirting with the umbra.
"As a result, the moon's brightness will begin to dim, as it is less strongly illuminated by the sun, but it remains illuminated," Jeremy Shears of the British Astronomical Association explained to The Telegraph. "What makes this penumbral eclipse special is that this is a rare occasion when almost the whole of the moon's face will pass within the Earth's penumbra, and so the reduction of the moon's brightness will be more perceptible than usual."
In the U.S., the eastern half will be getting the best views of the phenomenon. The penumbra lunar eclipse this February will begin at 5:34 p.m. EST, peak at 7:43 p.m. and end at 9:53 p.m., according to Bustle.
The moon will be dimming for a short while during the eclipse, but it will also be gloriously full for the entire night. Quite simply, a snow moon is the full moon that occurs in the month of February, dubbed as such because it's often the month that records the most snow in the U.S.
Native Americans also call it the Hunger Moon because the snow makes it difficult to hunt or gather food. The full moon will rise at 5:18 p.m. EST.
New Year Comet
Meanwhile, the moon would have to share the night sky with the New Year comet or Comet 45P. It only appears every five-and-a-quarter years, so miss tonight's show and one would have to wait until 2022 to see it again.
The nearest point Comet 45P will get to Earth is at 0.08 Astronomical Units (7.4 million miles) over the weekend. It's near enough to spot with the naked eye, although a pair of binoculars will certainly help.
From midnight onwards, look for the Hercules constellation and keep an eye out for the comet's blue-green head with a fan-shaped tail.