On Friday, 10th February, there will be a cosmic experience as this month’s full moon nicknamed the “Snow Moon” will coincide with a special lunar eclipse that will cast a shadow over the full moon. More interesting is the fact that you may get a golden chance to see a pale green comet as it streaks by Earth.
On Friday evening, as this month’s Snow Moon is shaded from the sun’s light, it will turn varying shades of gray. Just 10 minutes after the full moon peaks, so will a penumbral lunar eclipse. The moon will spend more than 4 hours coasting through Earth’s outer shadow, called the penumbra, and it will appear darker than normal.
February’s full moon was appropriately dubbed the Snow Moon, because this month typically sees the heaviest snowfall of the year. Some tribes have also called it the Hunger Moon as the winter weather made it difficult to hunt and forage for food.
While penumbral eclipses can be difficult to see and don’t look nearly as dramatic as a total lunar eclipse — Friday’s penumbral eclipse will be darker and more noticeable than most lunar eclipses of its kind. That’s because the moon will veer so deeply into Earth’s penumbral shadow that it will be almost entirely submerged in shade.
Lunar eclipses occurs when the moon passes through the darkest, central part of Earth’s shadow. That is, when the Earth is optimally placed between the sun and the moon.
Friday’s penumbral lunar eclipse will be visible from most countries of the world, with the exception of Australia, New Zealand and the East Asian countries along the Pacific coast.
Europe, Africa and the eastern side of South America (including most of Brazil) are said to be the best places to see the eclipse from beginning to end.
Skywatchers across Europe, Asia, Africa and North America will all be able to see the lunar eclipse, though some regions will have a better view than others.
The moon will first enter Earth’s shadow at 5:32 p.m. EST (2232 GMT), and its moonlight will slowly but surely grow dimmer for a little over 2 hours. After the eclipse peaks at 7:43 p.m. EST (0034 GMT on Feb. 11), the bright glow of the full moon will take about another 2 hours to return to normal. The moon will be completely outside of the penumbral shadow by 9:55 p.m. EST (0255 GMT on Feb. 11).
The Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusáková will make its closest approach to Earth at 10:30 p.m. Eastern. The greenish comet will be visible by telescope and binoculars, but not to the naked eye.
Astronomers said regardless of where you are watching it, the first and last 40 or so minutes of the eclipse will probably not be noticeable.
You are advised to start looking about 90 minutes before mid-eclipse because the outer part of Earth’s penumbra is so pale that you won’t notice anything until the moon’s edge has slid at least halfway in.
Astronomers said as with most skywatching events, it’s best to be mindful of light pollution and other aspects of your surroundings that could hinder the view, such as tall mountains, buildings and trees.