There’s an astronomical triple threat coming this weekend.
From Friday evening through Saturday morning, it will be possible to spot a penumbral lunar eclipse, a full “snow” moon, and a comet flyby.
The lunar eclipse will appear during the full moon on Friday evening. It’s a penumbral eclipse, which means it’s more subtle than a traditional lunar eclipse. Of the three types of lunar eclipses that exist, a penumbral is most difficult to spot. “At best, at mid-eclipse, very observant people will notice a dark shading on the moon’s face,” according to EarthSky. The eclipse will be most visible during the evening moonrise on Friday.
The moon itself will be referred to as a “snow moon,” which sounds fancier than it actually is. The name just refers to the fact that it’s the first full moon of February. According to Farmer’s Almanac, the name derives from February’s typically heavy snow. (Punxsutawney Phil did see his shadow this year, so the moon’s name could be prophetic.)
Those neither excited by the lunar eclipse nor the snow moon should stay awake until the early hours of Saturday to try to catch a glimpse of an unusual green comet. At around 3 a.m. ET on Saturday morning, Comet 45P will make a “close” pass to Earth—only 7.4 million miles away.
The comet is expected to shoot through the Hercules constellation high in the Eastern sky. The bright blue-green head with a tail should be visible with binoculars or a small telescope. As always, it will be most visible from areas free of light pollution.
Those unable to spot the comet on Saturday morning should keep looking up to the skies. The comet will keep making appearances throughout the month of February. After that, we'll have to wait for another visit in 2022.