Friday night celestial wonders begin early

lunar-eclipse

HOLT, Fla., Feb. 9, 2017—The heavens offer up a celestial trifecta this Friday: a full moon, a lunar eclipse and a comet, all in one night.

As long as the skies are clear, that is. And as of today, Friday’s weather forecast is calling for starry skies and temperatures in the mid-to-upper 40s.

Lunar eclipse
This minor lunar eclipse will pass through the Earth’s outer shadow, known as the penumbra. Unlike a total lunar eclipse where the sun, Earth and moon are perfectly aligned, the moon won’t grow completely dark, but will dull to a gray color.

February’s “snow moon” will enter the Earth’s penumbra at 5:32 p.m. EST. Moonrise in Holt is scheduled for 5:25 p.m. CST, so by the time it appears in the skies here, the eclipse should have already begun.

Because the Earth’s penumbra is so widespread, the eclipse will last for four hours as the moon crawls across the sky. However, it will be at its darkest at the peak of the event, around 7:43 p.m. EST, or 6:43 p.m. here in the central time zone.

The eclipse ends around 9:55 p.m. EST.

Comet
A few hours after the eclipse, Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusáková makes its appearance, passing through the Hercules constellation as it makes its way back out to the outer parts of the solar system.

The comet, which has been making its way though the solar system for the past two months, makes its closest approach to Earth Friday and will appear as a greenish star-like blur. Best time for viewing is 2-3 a.m. Saturday morning.

However, binoculars—or even better, a telescope—is needed since it’s not visible with the naked eye.

Finding a dark place to skywatch away from streetlights, car lights and other light pollution works best. That shouldn’t be a problem here in Holt.

Stephanie Holcombe

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