New Jersey Could See a Sky Show Friday Night, Weather Permitting
Tonight! For one night only! Coming to a New Jersey sky near you! An astronomical triple-treat!
If conditions are ripe, the heavens will display a partial lunar eclipse, a fly-by from Comet 45p and a full or "snow" moon.
John Endreson, president of the Astronomical Society of the Toms River Area (ASTRA), says "it is going to take a little bit of a trick to see, because it is going to be very subtle."
According to Endreson, as the Earth travels around the sun, the Earth's shadow is projected out into space. And as the moon orbits the earth, every so often the moon passes through this shadow. If it passes through the shadow directly, you get a "total" lunar eclipse — quite a sight to see because the moon gets quite dark.
This Friday is what is called a "prenumbrum," partial lunar eclipse, where the moon will pass just through the edge of the earth's shadow.
Also thrown into this show, a full moon or "snow moon, " so named by The Old Farmer's Almanac. A few hours after the partial eclipse of the moon, Comet 45P will show up in the sky. This comet has been visible for the past few months with the help of magnification.
A lot will also depend on the weather, especially for the eclipse, which will happen around 8 p.m.
"The best bet would be a pair of binoculars or a small telescope," Endreson says.
But he adds that any cloud cover will diminish what you are able to see in the sky.
"A crisp, clear night will give you the best opportunity to see any of these events, especially the subtle changes in the color of the moon that is going to happen with this lunar eclipse."
This is best viewed in a dark sky, away from city lights.
"If you are able to get away, go to a county park, or some place near the coast where you are able to look out over a large area of sky that is not affected by streets lights or building lights. Then your eyes become adjusted to the darkness and thus allows you to be able to see more objects in the sky."
ASTRA is open to individuals who are interested in astronomy and space sciences. Members are of all ages and all levels of experience. Many are novices, some are advanced observers. Beginners are especially welcome. They hold their monthly meeting on the second Friday of every month at the Novins Planetarium at Ocean County College in Toms River.