BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There’s a double feature playing tonight, and it’s free.
All you have to do is look up. A partial lunar eclipse and a passing comet will be visible all along the East Coast.
There are different kinds of eclipses. When the Earth completely blocks the Sun, its shadow creates a total lunar eclipse.
Tonight, the moon will only graze the edge of the Earth’s shadow, triggering what’s called a penumbral eclipse.
“It’s a kind of dimming of the moon and you will see like a shadow going across the moon,” says Dr. Geronimo Villanueva, of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
Because it will be subtle, “The best time to see the event is at 9:40 p.m. when the process is kind of dying,” Villanueva says. “In that moment the dimming will start to disappear and you’ll see a brighter moon happening there.”
The moon is only the night’s first act. After midnight, comet 45-P makes an appearance.
Often called the green comet, it swings around the Sun roughly every five years. Tonight it comes closes to the Earth, only 7 million miles.
“For us it’s like next door,” Villanueva says. “It’s super close. Typically comets are very far away in the solar system. We tend to see them very, very far away. So this comet for us is like passing in our neighborhood. So we’re very, very excited about that.”
At 7 million miles out, though, it’s still going to take binoculars or a telescope to see the comet. Start looking to the East are 1 a.m.