Skywatchers are in for a treat this Friday evening as a rare Snow Moon eclipse will take place.
A so-called deep penumbral lunar eclipse will occur on February 10th, as the Earth moves almost directly between the sun and moon, blocking the sun’s rays and casting a shadow on the moon. Unlike a total or partial lunar eclipse where the moon passes through the central part of the Earth’s shadow, called the umbra, and goes completely dark, the penumbral eclipse will involve the moon travelling through the outer edges of the Earth’s shadow (the penumbra), an event which on Earth will be seen as a dimming of the moon’s brightness.
“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,” says Jeremy Shears from the British Astronomical Association, to the Telegraph, “and so the reduction of the moon’s brightness will be more perceptible than usual.”
The eclipse is expected to last just over four hours and can be seen almost everywhere on Earth. In Canada, viewers will see the full moon shining in the Eastern sky during the eclipse and they’ll get the best view as the moon goes into mid-eclipse at 7:44 pm EST. Close watchers in eastern Canada, however, will get the best look as they’ll be able to see the shading begin on the moon’s left side at least an hour and a half earlier at 6:15 pm EST.
February’s full moon is known as the Snow Moon, a name said to be handed down from Indigenous North American cultures. February’s moon has also been called the Hunger Moon and the Storm Moon.
For lunar enthusiasts, 2017 expects to be a banner year, space travel-wise, as all five remaining teams competing for Google’s Lunar X Prize gear up for their respective missions to the moon. The $30 million prize ($20 million for the first place finisher and $5 million each for second and third place) will be rewarded to the team that first lands a rover on the moon, sends it rolling 500 metres across the moon’s surface and sends back images and video of the event to Earth.
All in the name of advancing private innovation and entrepreneurship, the Lunar X Prize recently announced the names of the five teams remaining in the competition, all of which have secured launch contracts. The one solely North American entry, Moon Express, has so far reportedly raised $20 million in financing. The Florida-based group is planning a launch later in 2017 and has said its larger ambitions include mining the moon for minerals and moon colonization.
“We now have all the resources in place to shoot for the Moon,” said Bob Richards, Moon Express’s CEO, in a statement. “Our goal is to expand Earth’s social and economic sphere to the Moon, our largely unexplored eighth continent, and enable a new era of low cost lunar exploration and development for students, scientists, space agencies and commercial interests.”