Astronomical Triple Treat
With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, there’s no better time for a romantic date under the night sky than this weekend.
This Friday (Feb 10) and Saturday (Feb 11), not one, not two, but three celestial events are set to coincide — a penumbral lunar eclipse, Snow Moon and New Year’s Comet.
Whether or not you’re a big fan of astronomy and stars, we’re sure this rare astronomical triple treat will be enough to make your jaw drop — if you can see it.
Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs when the Sun, Earth and Moon are imperfectly aligned in a straight line.
Unlike a regular lunar eclipse, where the Earth blocks sunlight directly from reaching the Moon’s surface, the Earth blocks some of the Sun’s light from reaching the Moon and covers part of the Moon with the outer part of its shadow (called a penumbra) during a penumbral eclipse.
According to Mr Jeremy Shears from the British Astronomical Association, as quoted by The Telegraph: “What makes this penumbral eclipse special is that this is a rare occasion when almost the whole of the moon’s face will pass within the Earth’s penumbra, and so the reduction of the moon’s brightness will be more perceptible than usual.”
Here’s what it looks like:
Can See Or Not?
However, will we in Singapore be able to see this phenomenon?
The regions highlighted in purple will be able to see at least some part of the eclipse. Fortunately for us, our Little Red Dot happens to fall just within the purple perimeter. Phew!
The Full Snow Moon Eclipse will be visible to us during moonset.
So get your notebooks and jot down the following timings:
While the entire eclipse will last around 4 hours, we will only be able to see over 40 minutes of it as in Singapore the moon will set while the eclipse is ongoing.
And here’s what you can roughly expect to see in the sky come Saturday:
Disclaimer: A penumbral solar eclipse may be difficult to see as the shadowed part is only a little fainter compared to the rest of the Moon’s surface.
The Snow Moon is the traditional name of a full moon in February in North America as during this period, snow falls the heaviest.
The night before the eclipse (Feb 10, Friday) the moon will rise at about 6.47pm Singapore time.
The next day, at 8.32am, there will be a full moon — but technically it would have set, so we probably won’t be able to see it. =(
Comet 45P is also known as the “New’s Year Comet” as it started moving across the sky near the end of 2016. It is a periodic comet — it travels a uniform path around the Sun.
This comet has a bright-bluish ‘head’ and is only visible once every five and a quarter years, according to Popsugar.
As luck would have it, the New’s Year Comet will be soaring past our Earth near enough to be seen in the skies on the same day of the Snow Moon and penumbral eclipse.
It can be difficult to spot with the naked eye, and the use of a binoculars may be necessary in order to catch a glimpse of it.
Timeline Of Events
Here’s a quick timeline of what you can see at which time:
Or, if you prefer a textual representation:
Feb 10, Friday
- 6:47pm – Moon rises
Feb 11, Saturday
- 6:34am – Penumbral eclipse begins
- 7:12am – Penbumral eclipse at its maximum
- 7:14am – Moon sets
- 8:32am – Full moon appears (Can’t be seen)
- 10:53am – Eclipse ends (Can’t be seen)
- 4pm – Comet
Set Your Alarms
Whether you will be able to see everything or not, depends on luck, smarts and good equipment.
Even if you don’t end up seeing it, a night under the night sky with a date doesn’t sound too bad.
So it’s time to wipe the dust off your telescope and binoculars, and get ready for a view that’s out of this world.
Featured Image from The Huffington Post.