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Partial Lunar Eclipse, Comet Starring in Night Sky Show

A network of observatories is providing a live broadcast for both events

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A full moon, partial lunar eclipse and comet star in a special night sky show this weekend.

    (Published Friday, Feb. 10, 2017)

    A full moon, partial lunar eclipse and comet starred in a special night sky show this weekend.

    A lunar eclipse started everything off Friday night. In this particular type of eclipse, the full moon passes into Earth's outer shadow, or penumbra. The moon is not blacked out like in a full eclipse — only part of the moon is shaded. Meteorologists say while the moon was dim, the comet was still expected to be difficult to see with the naked eye or even with binoculars. 

    Comet 45P, meanwhile, zoomed past Earth early Saturday morning. It was measured to be an extremely close encounter as these things go, passing within 7.7 million miles (12.4 million kilometers) of Earth. Its relative speed: 14.2 miles per second, or a breakneck 51,120 mph.

    The comet, glowing green, was visible in the constellation Hercules, though not without the aid of telescopes or binoculars. If you were not in a very dark area, you likely had trouble seeing it. 

    Stargazers have been tracking Comet 45P for the past couple of months. The ice ball — an estimated mile across — comes around every five years. It's officially known as Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova, named after the Japanese, Czech and Slovak astronomers who discovered it in 1948. The letter P stands for periodic, meaning it's a recurring visitor to the inner solar system.

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    The Slooh network of observatories will provide a live broadcast from the Canary Islands for both big events.

    The eclipse will last more than four hours, beginning at 5:32 p.m. EST. The action will unfold early Saturday in Europe, Africa and western Asia.

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