This Friday night, look up (and up and up): a trio of Natural events are taking to the sky. There’ll be a full Snow Moon, a lunar eclipse, and if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a passing comet
Snow Moon Will Rise at 6:48pm
A “Snow Moon” is simply the name given to February’s full moon. So no, it’s nothing special beyond being a full moon on the snowiest of months, but on the other hand, it is the only full moon of the year to cast its elegant moon beams upon dazzling banks of February snow. In that sense, it comes but once a year to inspire poets and RPM-ers with beauty and metaphor.
More specifically, tonight’s eclipse is a “penumbral lunar eclipse,” so, not a total eclipse of the moon. You’ll have to wait a few more years for one of those. A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs when the Sun, Earth, and Moon align in an almost straight line, so the earth ends up blocking blocking some of the sun’s rays from hitting and bouncing off the moon. (Reminder: our moon doesn’t naturally glow, it reflects the sunlight that hits it. Unless of course the earth, or its shadow, gets in the way, dulling it out, as in a lunar eclipse).
So yeah, the penumbral eclipse will essentially just dull the beauty of the Snow Moon, and worse still a penumbral eclipse can be hard to notice, since the shadow is only slightly fainter than the rest of the Moon. But consider all that had to literally align for this event: the moon must be a full Moon, and, the Sun, Earth and Moon must be imperfectly aligned in a straight line.
In Newfoundland & Labrador, peak time to check this out will be 9:13 pm.
New Year Comet
The New Year Comet, aka Comet 45P, has been journeying across northern hemisphere skies since the end of 2016, but it will be closer to earth than ever overnight on Friday (so like, the wee hours nearer to sunrise). If the penumbra eclipse on a snow moon didn’t excite you than get this: the New year comet will come within a mere 7.4 million miles from earth — the closest its come to nailing us since 2011.
The comet was dubbed 45P/Honda–Mrkos–Pajdušáková after the astronomers who discovered it in 1948, and can be seen from earth every 5 and a quarter years. The comet is a mass of rock, dust, and ice that, to you, will look like a small, fuzzy blue-green ball. Using a telescope or binoculars would be recommended over a good long squint. But with clear skies, you’ll see it with the naked eye.