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How To Watch The Lunar Eclipse 2017, Snow Moon And New Year Comet On The Same Day

It's going to be a big night for sky gazing.

08/02/2017 12:20 GMT | Updated 10/02/2017 17:06 GMT

For fans of the night sky, it’s set to be a spectacular display. On Friday (10 Feb), a lunar eclipse, New Year comet and Snow Moon will coincide, presenting one of the most memorable sky gazing opportunities in years.

Here’s everything you need to know to get the perfect view.

Getty Images/Westend61

February’s full Moon is known as the Snow Moon as it’s traditionally the snowiest time of year in the US. 

It’s also called the Hunger Moon by some native American tribes who struggle to hunt for food among snowy conditions.

In the UK, it’s set to rise at 4:44pm on Friday (10 Feb) and set at 7:30am on Saturday morning.

What Is A Penumbral Lunar Eclipse?

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Lunar eclipses occur when the Earth comes between the Sun and the Moon, casting a shadow on the latter’s surface. The penumbral lunar eclipse is no exception. But these subtle events are much rarer. They take place when the Moon passes through a peripheral region of the Earth’s shadow.

Normally, the phenomenon will cause the Moon’s brightness to slightly dim, with a fainter shadow forming on its surface. But this is penumbral eclipse is rarer. The British Astronomical Association’s Jeremy Shears said:

“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.”

The event begins at 10:34pm on Friday (10 Feb) in the UK as the Moon first enters Earth’s penumbral shadow. It then finishes at 2:53am on Saturday morning. If you’re really committed, the best viewing opportunity will be at 12:45am – the point of mid-eclipse. It’s set to be visible from Europe and Africa, and most of Asia and North America.

What Is The New Year Comet?

Officially known as Comet 45P, the New Year Comet has been on show every five and a half days since mid-December.

Sky gazers in the US even got a view of the comet on New Year’s Eve itself, but it was painfully low in the UK’s night sky.

The British Astronomical Association said it would now be reaching a “respectable altitude”. On Friday, 45P is set to make its closest pass of Earth since 2011. 

The best time to spot the comet will be from midnight on Friday (10 Feb). If you’re lucky enough to have a sky free of light pollution you might even be able to see it with the naked eye. If not, point your binoculars towards the constellation Hercules and search for a blue-green ‘head’ and fan-shaped tail.

After flying by Hercules, it will move on to Corona Borealis (the Northern Crown), Boötes (the Herdsman), Canes Venatici (Boötes’ hunting dogs) and Ursa Major, according to NASA’s website

The comet, also known as Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova, is a regular visitor to our skies. It made 11 close approaches to Earth in the last century, but it won’t be back again till 2022.

NASA’s Favourite Photos Of 2016

  • NASA/Bill Ingalls
    In this 30 second exposure taken with a circular fish-eye lens a meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower as a photographer wipes moisture from the camera lenses Friday August 12 2016 in Spruce Knob West Virginia
  • NASA/Bill Ingalls
    The second and final qualification motor QM-2 test for the Space Launch Systems booster is seen Tuesday June 28 2016 at Orbital ATK Propulsion Systems test facilities in Promontory Utah
  • NASA/Bill Ingalls
    The Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 48 crew members NASA astronaut Jeff Williams Russian cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos near the town of Zhezkazgan Kazakhstan on Wednesday Sept 7 2016Kazakh time
  • NASA/Bill Ingalls
    In this long exposure photograph the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft is seen launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with Expedition 50 crewmembers NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Friday Nov 18 2016
  • NASA/Joel Kowsky
    The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos Wednesday Oct 19 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan
  • NASA/Bill Ingalls
    The Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft is rolled out by train to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome Kazakhstan Monday July 4 2016
  • NASA/Bill Ingalls
    NASA astronaut Jeff Williams left Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos center and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos are seen inside the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft a few moments after they landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan Kazakhstan on Wednesday Sept 7 2016Kazakh time
  • NASA/Bill Ingalls
    The Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with Expedition 48-49 crewmembers Kate Rubins of NASA Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency JAXA onboard Thursday July 7 2016 Kazakh time July 6 Eastern time Baikonur Kazakhstan
  • NASA/Bill Ingalls
    In this 30 second exposure a meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower Friday August 12 2016 in Spruce Knob West Virginia
  • NASA/Aubrey Gemignani
    From left to right Jack Connerney Juno deputy principal investigator and magnetometer lead co-investigator NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center Chris Jones associate director for flight projects and mission success NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory JPL Dr Jim Green Planetary Science Division Director NASA Scott Bolton Juno principal investigator Southwest Research Institute Geoff Yoder acting Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate NASA Michael Watkins director NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory JPL and Rick Nybakken Juno project manager Jet Propulsion Laboratory JPL celebrate with others on the Juno team after they received confirmation from the spacecraft that it had successfully completed the engine burn and entered orbit of Jupiter Monday July 4 2016 in mission control of the Space Flight Operations Facility at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena CA
  • NASA/Bill Ingalls
    The Orbital ATK Antares rocket with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard launches from Pad-0A Monday Oct 17 2016 at NASAs Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia
  • NASA/Bill Ingalls
    The Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 49 crew members NASA astronaut Kate Rubins Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos and astronaut Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency JAXA near the town of Zhezkazgan Kazakhstan on Sunday Oct 30 2016
  • NASA/Joel Kowsky
    The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASAs Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security-Regolith Explorer OSIRIS-REx spacecraft lifts off on from Space Launch Complex 41 on Thursday Sept 8 2016 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida
  • NASA/Joel Kowsky
    This composite image made from ten frames shows the International Space Station with a crew of six onboard in silhouette as it transits the sun at roughly five miles per second Saturday Dec 17 2016 from Newbury Park California
  • NASA/Bill Ingalls
    The Orbital ATK Antares rocket with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard launches from Pad-0A Monday Oct 17 2016 at NASAs Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia