BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday February 9, 2017 – Stargazers will be in their element this weekend with stunning astronomical events visible to viewers around the world.
Tomorrow, a lunar eclipse is forecast to appear on a “snow moon” – the name given to a full moon in February – casting a shadow across the lunar surface.
And within hours, Comet 45P (also referred to as the “New Year comet”) will make its closest approach to Earth.
For viewers in the Caribbean, North, Central and South America, the event will unfold in the evening, while in Europe, Africa and western Asia, the eclipse will be seen as the moon is in the southern sky late at night.
In Jamaica, the shadow will first cast over the moon at 17:34 ET, and will end at 21:53 ET, a duration of four hours and 19 minutes.
In Trinidad and Tobago, the event will begin at 18:34 ET, and end at 22:53 ET.
Interested persons can check timeanddate.com to see exactly when the lunar eclipse will be visible in their area.
An eclipse of the moon occurs when the sun, Earth and moon line up, with Earth in the middle. This alignment causes the Earth’s shadow to fall on the moon, creating a lunar eclipse.
In a penumbral lunar eclipse, only the more diffuse outer shadow of Earth falls on the moon causing a more subtle shadow than a partial or total eclipse.
But provided the night sky is clear, viewers will see the moon gradually turning a darker shade of silver as Earth’s shadow passes over it.
As well as the lunar eclipse, Comet 45P – the New Year comet – will make its closest approach to Earth this weekend.
According to NASA: “Comet 45P, visible after sunset over the last two months – through both binoculars and telescopes – makes its closest approach to Earth on February 11, when it will be 0.08 Astronomical Units (7.4 million miles) from Earth.
“It’ll be visible in the morning sky in the constellation Hercules.
“The comet then passes through the constellations Corona Borealis (the Northern Crown), Boötes (the Herdsman), Canes Venatici (Boötes’ hunting dogs) and Ursa Major.
“Then on to Leo by the end of February.
“It moves swiftly – 9 degrees each day! It will return again in 2022.”
Comet 45P makes its way back to the inner solar system approximately every 5 years, and has a bright bluish-green “head.”
It can be difficult to spot with the naked eye, and binoculars may be necessary.