On Friday, February 10, you should get ready for an astronomical treat as skywatchers will be able to view a full “snow” moon, a penumbral lunar eclipse, and a comet passing by, and all within a very short space of time.
The penumbral lunar eclipse on Friday will take place during the full snow moon, and while not as visible or obvious as a total lunar eclipse would be, this eclipse will still be noticeable as the moon makes its way through the outer part of the Earth’s shadow. The outer shadow of the Earth will only block part of the sun’s rays, and this eclipse on February 10 will make the moon appear slightly darker than it would normally be. Penumbral eclipses make up nearly 35 percent of all eclipses.
Friday’s penumbral eclipse can be viewed at 7:43 p.m. ET (4:43 p.m. PT), USA Today reports. If you’re wondering if you will be able to see the eclipse from where you live, NASA says that it will be visible to those in eastern North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Western Asia.
If you’re curious as to where the term “snow” moon comes from, it is derived from Native Americans that came from both the eastern and the northern United States and you may have noticed that each month’s moon has its own name. The Farmer’s Almanac describes how Native Americans gave “distinctive” names for each month.
“The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred. February’s full Moon is traditionally called the Full Snow Moon because usually the heaviest snows fall in February. This name dates back to the Native Americans during Colonial times when the Moons were a way of tracking the seasons. And the Native Americans were right. On average, February is the USA’s snowiest month, according to data from the National Weather Service.”
While other names have been given to February’s moon, like the Bone Moon, which was named by the Cherokee Native Americans, it is generally referred to as a snow moon.
This month the full moon occurs on February 10, when a penumbral lunar eclipse will occur. https://t.co/LlUgDBI5pR
— Sierra Magazine (@Sierra_Magazine) February 5, 2017
Besides the full moon and the penumbral eclipse on Friday, February 10, viewers will also be able to watch Comet 45P as it streaks by. This comet has been visible already for two months, and those with binoculars and telescopes may have already witnessed it. However, on Friday it will be closest to the Earth at just 7.4 million miles away.
If you are interested in trying to see Comet 45P, you will need to go outside in the early hours of Saturday morning at around 3 a.m. ET and you should look up toward the constellation known as Hercules. You will want to search the sky in that direction for a blue-green light with a head and tail.
If you happen to fall asleep early on Friday, don’t despair as NASA says that you will still be able to view the comet in other areas of the sky until the end of February, and Comet 45P will make another return in the year 2022, says Jane Houston Jones from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.
“Comet 45P, visible after sunset over the last two months-through both binoculars and telescopes-makes its closest approach to Earth on February 11, when it will be 0.08 Astronomical Units (7.4 million miles) from Earth. It’ll be visible in the morning sky in the constellation Hercules. The comet then passes through the constellations Corona Borealis (the Northern Crown), Boötes (the Herdsman), Canes Venatici (Boötes’ hunting dogs) and Ursa Major. Then on to Leo by the end of February. It moves swiftly — 9 degrees each day! It will return again in 2022.”
Will you be watching the full snow moon penumbral eclipse and Comet 45P, an event which all begins on Friday, February 10?
[Featured Image by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]