This weekend is proving to be a treat for skywatchers. That’s because it features three intriguing, if not rare events all taking place over the span of just a few days — the so-called “Snow Moon,” a rare total penumbral eclipse, and a “green comet” making its closest flyby above Earth.
The Snow Moon got its name because it takes place in February, a traditionally cold winter month. According to the International Business Times, it is also known as the Hunger Moon, the No Snow in the Trails Moon, and the Shoulder to Shoulder Around the Fire Moon, mainly due to the harsh and challenging circumstances Native Americans faced while hunting in the winter months.
Photos of the stunning Snow Moon have emerged online over the past two days, with the full moon visible over America, the United Kingdom, and other parts of the world last night, with users taking to social media to post their photos of the Snow Moon as it shone in the night sky.
According to The Standard, some of the more interesting photos included one from Reuters, as an Airbus passenger jet preparing to land at the Orlando International Airport was snapped making its way past the Snow Moon. Elsewhere in Florida, it was seen as President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in West Palm Beach with their wives.
— Carole Arnett (@cparnett) February 12, 2017
— Adrian Bigno (@adrianbigyes) February 12, 2017
As The Inquisitr reported earlier in the week, this year’s Snow Moon was to be accompanied by 2017’s first penumbral lunar eclipse. And in Pakistan, images of the eclipse began to arrive early this morning in local time.
According to The Nation, the lunar eclipse was seen in Asian, African, European, and South American countries, starting at 3:34 a.m. in Pakistan and hitting its peak at 5:44 a.m. The eclipse lasted four hours, having ended at 7:53 a.m. This would then be followed by 2017’s first solar eclipse, which takes place on February 26, with the next lunar eclipse expected to be visible between August 7 and 8.
Penumbral lunar eclipses are defined by EarthSky as being more subtle than total or partial lunar eclipses, and harder to spot with the naked eye than the other two types.
“The eclipse never progresses to reach the dramatic minutes of totality. At best, at mid-eclipse, very observant people will notice a dark shading on the moon’s face. Others will look and notice nothing at all.”
This week’s penumbral lunar eclipse, however, was a total one, an extremely rare event that had last taken place on March 14, 2006 — such events typically take place up to nine times per century, and sometimes not at all throughout the course of a century. The next one is expected to be seen on August 29, 2059.
Although both the Snow Moon and penumbral lunar eclipse made for impressive sights, NPR wrote that these paled in comparison to a third celestial sighting spotted this weekend – the “green comet” 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova, which astronomers have been watching for the past few months. According to NPR, the comet was most visible this weekend, being only a shade over seven million miles away from Earth. That marks the closest a comet has ever been to Earth in over three decades.
Green comet photo 2/09/17
— Joanne Fiola (@jojofiola) February 12, 2017
— Corey S. Powell (@coreyspowell) February 12, 2017
Thanks to the Slooh Community Observatory, the green comet’s path was recorded live on Friday night, with footage available on the observatory’s Facebook page. This should allow anyone who missed this close encounter to view it in all its glory.
All told, it might be quite a while before such a “trifecta” of extraordinary sightings in the sky — the Snow Moon, a total penumbral lunar eclipse, and a streaking green comet, in this case — takes place over the course of one weekend. And as far as those three specific events go, it might have been a once-in-lifetime series of sightings.
[Featured Image by Nati Harnik/AP Images]