Several celestial events on Friday night are expected to put on a show for stargazers in the North Carolina skies.
When the full snow moon rises Friday, its surface will appear darker than usual because it will be passing through the outer edge of the Earth’s shadow. The moon will be accompanied by three visible planets and a comet.
The darkening of the moon is called a penumbral lunar eclipse. Unlike total and partial eclipses, which completely darken the moon or portions of it, penumbral eclipses appear as a shadow on the moon’s surface, according to earthsky.org.
In the Triangle, the eclipse will begin before sundown, about 5 p.m., and will be at its midpoint by 7:45 p.m., according to the U.S. Naval Observatory. The eclipse will end about 9 p.m.
The last penumbral eclipse here occurred in September 2016.
In addition to the eclipse, two planets — Venus and Mars — will be easily visible with the naked eye, as well as with telescopes and binoculars. The planet Uranus can be seen with the unaided eye on moonless nights.
Comet 45P also will make its closest pass to earth on Saturday night, coming within 7.4 million miles from Earth. The comet will be visible in the morning sky to the left of the moon and pass through the constellations Boötes and Corona Borealis, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It won’t return until 2022.
In early March, Comet 2P Encke will be visible through binoculars in the western skies just after sunset, according to NASA. The comet will appear in the constellation Pisces.