A Triple Treat For Sky Watchers Friday, U-M Amateur Astronomer Explains

Feb 10, 2017

A picture of 45P taken 2 years ago, by Ottum.
Credit Brian D. Ottum, Ph.D.

Dr. Brian Ottum is a member of the University of Michigan Lowbrow Astronomers Club and co-author of a research paper on comets.  He explains what three sky events are happening tonight and what might be visible and where.


Not only is tonight going to be a full moon, but there will also be a lunar eclipse and a comet in view.

A picture of the comet taken 2 days ago.
Credit Brian D. Ottum, Ph.D.

The eclipse is one of only two visible in Michigan this year and is safe to view.  It will be what's known as a "Penumbral Lunar Eclipse," which means part of the moon will appear darkened and discolored.

In addition to the eclipse, a comet with what Ottum describes as a "greenish glow" will also be viewable in the sky.

It's known as "Comet 45P" and will be passing by the Earth at its closest point tonight.  It was discovered over 60 years ago and can be seen every six years.

Ottum says it's an unusual comet because it circles both the sun and the planet Jupiter.  He adds that it cannot be seen with the bare eye.

"It might be visible with binoculars, but you have to know exactly where to look, and you have to get out away from the city lights," Ottum says.

Ottum says it will appear about halfway up in the eastern sky just before the sun comes up.

He also shared some of the photos he took of it with his own telescope.

Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support.  Make your donation to WEMU today to keep your community NPR station thriving.

Like 89.1 WEMU on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

— Lisa Barry is a reporter, and host of All Things Considered on 89.1 WEMU. Contact her at 734.487.3363, on twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her lbarryma@emich.edu