Triple celestial event to take place in UK skies tonight

Stargazers will be treated to three astronomical events, when a lunar eclipse, Snow moon and New Year comet will all appear on the same night.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 10th February 2017, 4:29 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st March 2017, 8:57 am
Copyright MetOffice
Copyright MetOffice

The events will all coincide, a rare occurrence, tonight, Friday February 10.

Seeing the triple celestial event will depend on local cloud cover.

Snow moon

February’s full moon is named the Snow moon, because in the US this is traditionally the snowiest time of year.

Penumbral lunar eclipse

This year’s Snow moon will coincide with a penumbral lunar eclipse, so that it is almost completely submerged in shade as the Earth comes between the sun and the moon.

A penumbral eclipse is when the moon crosses a peripheral region of the Earth’s shadow.

Usually a faint shadow will form on the moon’s surface, and the moon will appear less bright. However February’s penumbral eclipse is unusual, because most of the moon’s face will cross the Earth’s shadow, making it appear much darker.

The best time to view the event will be mid-eclipse at 12.45am, though the eclipse will begin at 10.34pm on Friday and end at 2.53am on Saturday morning.

New Year comet

The New Year comet has been visible around the world since December, but on Friday it will make its closest approach to Earth, reaching 7.4 million miles from Earth. This will be its closest approach to Earth since 2011, and we won’t see it again until 2022. Look out for the comet from midnight on Friday - though you will probably need binoculars or a telescope to view it.