ABU DHABI // A rare celestial show in the early hours of Saturday will have residents looking to the skies - if they can stay awake that long.
The triple-header will feature a penumbral lunar eclipse, a fly-by of green comet, and a full “snow” moon – all within a few hours.
The display will begin at 2.54am when the alignment of the Sun, Earth, and Moon leads to the dimming of the latter during the eclipse.
The penumbral lunar eclipse – different from a total and partial eclipse event in that the Moon ventures into a region of Earth’s shadow where sunlight is diffused rather than blacked out - will peak at 4.44am when the Moon will be several shades and end at 6.53am, a few minutes before sunrise.
The peak will see the Moon dim by about 20 per cent, according Hasan Al Hariri, chief executive of the Dubai Astronomy Group.
“The problem is that most people will presume this is not an eclipse because the dimming effect is quite low,” said Mr Al Hariri.
Those determined to find evidence of the eclipse will see it in the top half of the Moon which will be shaded by Earth’s shadow.
Stargazers willing to stay up late, or arrive early, when the sky darkens as the Moon sets will get a chance to view the green glow of the so-called New Year Comet at its brightest.
The flyby of Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova – named after the three astronomers who discovered it in 1948 – will become the eighth closest comet approach to our planet since their tracking began in 1950 when it buzzes Earth at a distance of 11.9 million kilometres.
Due to the full Moon’s light the green head of the comet and its tail will be difficult to see with the naked eye said one expert
“More than being in a dark place we suggest those wishing to see the comet to use a telescope about 50mm in size,” said Ibrahim Al Jarwan, assistant director at the Sharjah Centre for Astronomy and Space Sciences.
Mr Al Jarwan said more experienced stargazers may be able to spot the celestial object’s glow with a set of binoculars.
Comet 45P will appear high in the east appearing to fly through constellation Hercules.
The previous events will be taking place during Friday and Saturday’s full “snow” moon, the name given to February’s full moon by Native Americans.
This was part of a greater system to track the seasons with different names - such Wolf, Pink, Flower, Corn and Hunter’s – given to every month’s full moon.
Since February usually provides the US with the heaviest snowfall, the name is fitting.