1 AU – A comet, a full moon and a lunar eclipse walk into a bar -- maybe not a bar, but the Friday sky will be graced with a triple threat.
Starting out as a full moon Friday night, the Earth’s outer shadow created by the sun, known as the penumbra, will create a slight eclipse of the moon.
A penumbral lunar eclipse is not as dramatic as a total eclipse of a partial lunar eclipse. Mid-eclipse, it will look like dark shading over the moon’s face, according to EarthSky.org.
The moon enters penumbra just after 5:30 p.m. Friday for the east coast but won’t be visible until 6:14 p.m.
Later Friday night into Saturday morning, Comet 45P will pass closest to Earth. The comet has been visible after sunset for the past two months, but it will make its closest approach at 7.4 million miles from Earth, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
[Can you spot the eclipse? The photo on the left below was taken at 7:30 p.m. outside WKMG studios and on the right, at 6:30 p.m.]
Astronomers looking for the the comet can find it as it passes through the constellations Corona Borealis, Bootes, Canes Venatici and Ursa major.
Comet 45P won’t return again until 2022, according to NASA.
As always, the best way to enjoy a night of astronomical event viewing is to step away from light pollution and into the dark, allowing your eyes about 15 minutes to adjust.
If you are new to the sky-gazing game, try downloading an app to help find objects in the sky.
Stellarium is easy to use at $2.99 and available for IOS and Android devices. SkySafari offers a few more bells and whistles and also costs $2.99, they have a related app for Macs, too.