A Snow Moon, a lunar eclipse and a comet walk into a bar…
It sounds like the start of a joke, but it’s not. Instead, it’s a rundown of all the meteorological happenings set to take place this Friday, February 10.
Let It Snow…Moon
While Snow Moon sounds fancy, it’s really just the name given to this month’s full moon. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, Native Americans gave each full moon its own name and “applied to the entire month in which each occurred.”
And February is the snowiest month in the U.S., according to data from the National Weather Service. Hence the name “Snow Moon.”
You can see the full moon throughout the night of February 10, but it “should be plainly visible in the night sky, weather permitting, in the late evening and early morning hours,” Jonathan Kemp, telescope specialist at Middlebury College Observatory, said in an interview with Real Simple.
A (Sorta) Total Eclipse Of The Night Sky
As with all eclipses, the moon has to be full. This particular eclipse, a penumbral eclipse, happens when the moon moves through the outer part of Earth’s shadow. This is different from a total eclipse since the penumbral eclipse blocks part of the moon, rather than the entire moon as in the case of a total eclipse.
Since it’s not a total eclipse, it’ll be difficult for anyone to see it clearly. The best time to catch it will be 7:43 p.m. EST, with the peak hours running from 5:34 p.m. EST to 9:53 p.m. EST.
Hey, That Comet’s Getting Too Close To Us…
On top of the full moon and lunar eclipse, there’ll be a comet flying around the night sky early Saturday morning. Unless you have Superman’s vision, you need binoculars or a telescope to see Comet 45P. This is the closest the comet will get to Earth, as it will only be 8 million miles away, according to NASA.
If you’re up late Friday night, look for a bluish-green head and a tail trailing behind Comet 45P near Hercules constellation.
What Are The Odds?
Because I’m obsessed with numbers, I had to find out the odds of this particular event happening all on one day.
The Snow Moon happens once a year, or once every 365 days. Comet 45P happens once every five years, or once every 1,825 days. And seven penumbral eclipses (including Friday’s eclipse) will happen in the next 10 years, which is about one penumbral eclipse every 521 days.
Going back to basic probability, we have to multiply each probability of an independent event happening on the same day. Multiplying the number of days (365 x 1,825 x 521) gives us the odds of this special event happening today.
This is a one-in-a-million opportunity.
Actually, it’s a 1-in-347,051,125, or a 0.0000000029 percent chance of these three celestial events ever happening again on the same day within the next 10 years.