CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - A full moon and comet share double billing in a special night sky show this weekend.
A lunar eclipse starts everything off Friday night. The moon will pass into Earth's penumbra, or outer shadow. The moon won't be blacked out like in a full eclipse. Only part of the moon will be shaded, but it should be easily visible from much of the world.
Comet 45P, meanwhile, will zoom past Earth early Saturday. It will be a close encounter as these things go, passing within some 7 million miles.
The comet will be visible in the constellation Hercules. Binoculars and telescopes will help in the search.
"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.
The second of several comets visible this year through binoculars or telescopes, Comet 2P Encke, returns to our view after a 3.3 year orbit around the sun. You can find it in the constellation Pisces. And you should be able to see it through binoculars all month long."
Stargazers have been tracking Comet 45P for the past couple months. The ice ball comes around every five years.
More information about the lunar eclipse from NASA:
NASA reports that:
"Meteors are caused when dust particles from comets and asteroids burn up in Earth's atmosphere. February isn't a great meteor shower month, but you might see a different kind of dust particles called the Zodiacal Light. The Zodiacal light is a triangular glow caused when sunlight reflects off dust particles in the plane of our solar system. Use Venus and Mars as signposts to the cone-shaped glow on the western horizon at sunset in late February and March."