Lunar eclipse, comet, full moon all coming Friday night: Rare space TRIPLE event on February 10, 2017


Skywatchers will enjoy a rare space triple-header Friday night and early Saturday morning…

A “penumbra” lunar eclipse during the full “snow” moon… and the flyby of a comet.

Here’s a look at what you will see if you set your eyes to the night sky:

Penumbral lunar eclipse

lunar eclipse february 10 2017, penumbral lunar eclipse february 10 2017
A penumbral lunar eclipse will occur on February 10–11, 2017.

Eagle-eyed skywatchers will see a “penumbral” lunar eclipse Friday evening during the full moon.

This rather subtle phenomenon occurs when the moon moves through the outer part of Earth’s shadow – the penumbra. The outer shadow of the Earth blocks part — but not all — of the sun’s rays from reaching the moon, making it appear slightly darker than usual.

lunar eclipse february 10 2017, penumbral lunar eclipse february 10 2017
During the lunar eclipse on February 10–11, 2017, the Moon skirts just outside Earth’s dark umbra. Look for deep penumbral shading on the north half of the lunar disk. Via Sky & Telescope

The exact moment of the penumbral eclipse is 7:43 p.m. ET (6:43 p.m. CT, 5:43 p.m. MT and 4:43 p.m. PT).

Full “snow” moon

As required during any eclipse, the moon will be full Friday night. 

full snow moon february, The full moon of February is also known as the Full 'snow' moon or the 'Hunger' Moon. 'snow' moon
The full moon of February is also known as the Full ‘snow’ moon or the ‘Hunger’ Moon.

According to the Farmers’ Almanac, Native Americans in the northern and eastern U.S. named February’s full moon the “snow” moon or the “hunger” moonh. The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full moon.

The Farmer’s Almanac reports some tribes referred to February’s moon as the , because harsh weather conditions made hunting difficult.

Comet 45P

A few hours after the eclipse, Comet 45P, which has been visible after sunset for the past two months through binoculars and telescopes, makes its closest approach to Earth, when it will be “only” 7.4 million miles away.

Look to the east around 3 a.m. Saturday morning, where it will be visible in the sky in the constellation Hercules. Binoculars or a telescope could be helpful. Watch for a bright blue-green “head” with a tail.

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Michael Jäger of Stixendorf, Austria, took the picture on Dec. 31, 2016, just as the comet 45P was swinging around the sun en route to Earth.

It will be visible in various points of the night sky until the end of February. If you miss it, don’t worry: It will return again in 2022.

So on February 10, 2017 keep your eyes to the sky!

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