Friday night will be a big treat for skywatchers all across Hampton Roads and Northeastern North Carolina. Not only will there will be a full moon, but there will also be a penumbral lunar eclipse, along with a flyby of a comet, all in one night.
A penumbral lunar eclipse is not as spectacular as a total lunar eclipse. In fact, according to Earthsky.org, it’s a bit more subtle and much harder to see than either a total or partial lunar eclipse.
During a partial lunar eclipse, skywatchers will often see a “dark bite” being taken out of the moon. Instead, as the moon moves through the outer part of the Earth’s shadow during a penumbral lunar eclipse, the Earth’s outer shadow blocks part of the sun’s rays from reaching the moon, making it appear slightly darker than usual. But again, it’s only a slight difference. Some folks may not notice a difference at all.
The penumbral lunar eclipse is expected to happen around 7:43 p.m. Friday evening.
Scientists say about 35 percent of all eclipses are penumbral.
On top of Friday night’s eclipse of February’s full snow moon (yes, the snow moon!), a comet will make an appearance in the night sky. Comet 45P will make its closest appearance to Earth late tonight, around 3 a.m. Saturday. Experts say look east in the constellation Hercules and have your binoculars or telescope handy. Make sure you watch out for a bright blue-green “head” with a tail in the sky.
Credit: USA Today, NASA, Space.com, Earthsky.org