Usually a night with a comet or a lunar eclipse is reason enough to peel yourself away from the couch for a bit to gaze at the stars, but tonight is even better. It’s like some sort of celestial PPV event, with not one, not two, but three amazing occurrences lining up in a rapid-fire assault on your eyeballs. Okay, so maybe that was overselling it a bit, but tonight there really is a whole lot going on in the heavens, including a lunar eclipse, a comet appearance, and a full Snow Moon.
It all starts with the moon, which will be in its full phase for the first time so far in February. The first full moon of February is called the Snow Moon by the Farmer’s Almanac due to the fact that it’s typically quite snowy in the northern regions during this time. In the past it’s also sometimes been called the Hunger Moon because of the difficult hunting that comes at the tail end of winter. Moonrise will occur at around 5:20pm EST, and that’s when the fun begins.
Next, we’ll be treated to a lunar eclipse — more specifically, a penumbral eclipse. The Earth’s outer atmosphere will begin slicing into the moon ever so slightly at around 6:15pm EST, though you’ll probably be best served waiting until about 7:30pm to catch the eclipse approaching its height, which will happen at 7:44pm.
Then, to top off a night of staring skyward, the New Year Comet will slip by its closest approach to Earth, which it does every 5.25 years or so. It’ll still be over seven million miles from our planet, which means you won’t have much luck seeing it with the naked eye, but if you have a telescope or high-powered binoculars you’ll be able to see it streaking through the sky near the Hercules constellation after midnight.