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Snow Moon joined by green comet and an eclipse, to boot!

Photo courtesy of Bill Sumrall
Eerie shot of the "Snow Moon" over Alexandria, Louisiana. (Feb. 9, 2017)
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OKLAHOMA CITY – With clear skies expected tonight, it is a great opportunity to check out a special, celestial event – a three-in-one, if you will … a penumbral eclipse, a full moon and a flyby of Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková—the so-called New Year Comet. 

Yes, dear readers, this is a rare event indeed, and an excuse to venture out on this winter’s eve and see this cosmic wonder.

Oh, and did we mention that this comet is an “emerald-green comet”? Pretty nifty, eh?

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková during its last pass in 2011 (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

As reported at Smithsonian.com:

The unusual celestial triple play begins early Friday evening, reports Weather.com. Starting at 5:34 P.M. eastern time, people along the east coast will be able to observe a penumbral lunar eclipse, when the sun, moon and earth all align. Unlike a total eclipse, in which the Earth casts a cone-shaped shadow, or umbra, that blacks out the moon, the effect of a penumbral eclipse is more subtle, reports Deborah Byrd at EarthSky.com. The face of the moon will slowly darken several shades over time as it passes through the penumbra, the more diffuse area on the edge of the shadow cone.

According to Bruce McClure at EarthSky.com, the ideal spots to view this particular eclipse are in Europe, Africa, Greenland and Iceland and that the entire eclipse will last four hours and 20 minutes. In North America, the period of greatest eclipse will take place at 7:44 P.M. local time. According to McClure, some people will notice the subtle shading but others may not be able to tell the moon is in shadow at all. Anyone hoping for a more showy eclipse will have to wait until August 21, however, when the first total solar eclipse that will be visible from all of the United States will take place for the first time in 99 years.

The second cosmic event taking place on Friday is the Full “Snow” Moon, which lights up the sky every February. Doyle Rice at USA Today explains that the name was given to the moon by Native Americans as part of a system used to keep track of the seasons. He reports that the name Snow Moon is pretty apt, since on average February is the snowiest month in the United States. There’s also an alternate name, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac; it's also called the Full Hunger Moon because tough weather made hunting difficult during this time of year.

Seems like there's something new to watch in the night sky on a monthly basis these days. And that's a good thing. These events are inspiring and hopefully triggering further interest in science and astronomy amongst those in the up-and-coming generation.

We can only hope!

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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