Full moon, lunar eclipse and comet could be visible Friday night

FILE - In this Monday Feb. 9, 2009 file photo, a faint shadow from the Earth is cast over part of the Moon during a penumbral lunar eclipse, seen from Manila, Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A Full Snow Moon, partial lunar eclipse and comet will be visible in the night sky early this weekend.

A lunar eclipse starts everything off Friday night. The moon will pass into Earth’s outer shadow, or penumbra. The moon won’t be blacked out like in a full eclipse. Only part of the moon will be shaded, but it should be easily visible from much of the world.

“The moon will appear a shade darker after sunset Friday night, as it passes through the outer envelope of Earth’s shadow in a partial lunar eclipse,” said, Paul Sutter, COSI Chief Scientist.

Comet 45P, meanwhile, will zoom past Earth early Saturday morning. It will be an extremely close encounter as these things go, passing within 7.7 million miles (12.4 million kilometers) of Earth. The comet, glowing green, will be visible in the constellation Hercules. Binoculars and telescopes will help in the search.

Here in Ohio, you will want to look to the east as the comet whizzes past Earth at the speed of 51,120 mph. Comet 45P will be visible occasionally throughout February, and not again until 2022.

“Unfortunately even in rural dark skies the comet will be hard to spot, even with binoculars, because of the bright moon this weekend. But 45P will return in 2022, so maybe we can get a better chance then,” Sutter said.

Stargazers have been tracking Comet 45P for the past couple of months. The ice ball — an estimated mile across — comes around every five years. It’s officially known as Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova, named after the Japanese, Czech and Slovak astronomers who discovered it in 1948. The letter P stands for periodic, meaning it’s a recurring visitor to the inner solar system.

The Slooh network of observatories will provide a live broadcast from the Canary Islands for both big events.

The eclipse will last more than four hours, beginning at 5:32 p.m. EST, with the precise time at 7:43 p.m. EST. The action will unfold early Saturday in Europe, Africa and western Asia, according to NASA.

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