Earlier this evening, stargazers across North America witnessed a full snow moon penumbral lunar eclipse. Those lucky enough to have a pair of binoculars, or a small telescope, also caught a glimpse of a bright-green comet passing by Earth.
According to Scientific American, Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova – also known as the “New Year’s Eve comet” – will make its closest approach to Earth on Saturday, Feb. 11. Though the comet has been visible for months, this weekend starwatchers will have the best possible view of one of the closest comet encounters we’ve had in more than 30 years.
Comet 45P should appear in the eastern sky before dawn or in the western sky just after sunset. The comet will be visible all weekend; however, it will be difficult to spot without the help of a telescope or a pair of binoculars.
Slooh.com, an online astronomy service, hosted a free “Full Snow Moon Eclipse” showing at 5:30 p.m. EST (2030 GMT) followed by a “Cruise the Galaxy with Comet 45P” at 10:30 p.m. EST (0330 GMT Feb.11).
According to Scientific American, during a penumbral lunar eclipse, the moon takes four hours and 10 minutes to glide across the pale outer fringe of Earth’s shadow – which is known as the penumbra. Unlike partial and total lunar eclipses, during a penumbral lunar eclipse the moon stays outside of the dark center of Earth’s shadow, known as the umbra. Usually, penumbral lunar eclipses are subtle events that are difficult to detect unless 70 percent of the moon’s diameter is immersed within shadow.
In tonight’s case, the moon passed very deep into the penumbra.
Observers in western, central, and South Asia will still be able to see the eclipse before or during dawn on Saturday morning.
Full Moon Names and Their Meanings
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, full moon names date back to the Native Americans. Back then, tribes used distinctive names of each recurring full moon to help keep track of the seasons. The Farmer’s Almanac lists the following Moon names.
Full Wolf Moon – January
During cold winters, wolf packs would howl outside of Indian villages, hence the name for January’s full moon.
Full Snow Moon – February
Because the heaviest snow usually falls during February, native tribes of the north and east often called February’s full moon the full snow moon.
Full Worm Moon – March
As the temperature heats up, earthworms tend to appear. Northern tribes knew this moon as the full crow moon.
Full Pink Moon – April
The name “Full Pink Moon” came from the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox – one of the earliest widespread flowers of spring.
Full Flower Moon – May
Flowers are usually abundant during May, hence the name. However, some referred to this moon as the full corn planting moon or the milk moon.
Full Strawberry Moon – June
Every Algonquin tribe knew the moon by this name. However, in Europe it was called the rose moon.
The Full Buck Moon – July
During July, buck deer usually grow their new antlers. This moon was also known as the full thunder moon.
Full Sturgeon Moon – August
Fishing tribes are credited for the naming of this moon, though a few tribes knew it as the full red moon.
Full Corn or Full Harvest Moon – September
This moon’s name is attributed to Native Americans because it marked when corn was supposed to be harvested.
Full Beaver Moon – November
November was the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze.
The Full Cold Moon or The Full Long Nights Moon – December
During December, the nights are at their longest and the coldest.
[Feature Image By SDenisov/Thinkstock]