Tonight there will be a trio of celestial treats: a full moon, a penumbral lunar eclipse, and a green-headed comet.
Careful observers across parts of North America can watch a Full Snow Moon penumbral lunar eclipse. With a pair of binoculars or a small telescope, skywatchers can also catch a glimpse of a bright-green comet passing by Earth. The comet’s name is Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková which will make its closest approach to Earth TONIGHT!
Even though the green comet has been visible for months, skywatchers will have the best view and it will also be the closest comet encounter in over 30 years.
The online astronomy service Slooh.com will webcast two free shows related to the eclipse and the comet tonight. “The Full Snow Moon Eclipse” will air live views of the lunar eclipse at 5:30 p.m. EST (2030 GMT) and be followed by “Cruise the Galaxy with Comet 45P” at 10:30 p.m. EST (0330 GMT Feb. 11). You can also watch both of the broadcasts here on Space.com, courtesy of Slooh.
Tonight, the moon will pass through the Earth’s penumbra — the outer region of the Earth’s shadow — which will cast a gray shadow over the surface of the moon. In a total lunar eclipse, the moon passes through the umbra, or the darkest part of the Earth’s shadow, and that blocks more of the moonlight. During a penumbral eclipse, the moon just darkens slightly. Most of the country will be able to catch the eclipse during the early evening hours.
The penumbral eclipse will also be visible in the evening from the Caribbean and eastern South America. In Europe and Africa, it happens in the middle of the night with the moon high in the sky. For observers in western, central and south Asia, it happens before or during dawn on Saturday morning (Feb. 11) local time. At mideclipse, the moon appears in the zenith (directly overhead) from Bamako, the capital city of the African nation of Mali.
To find 45P, look up at the constellation Hercules. Tonight the comet should be in between the great warrior’s “legs.”