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On Friday, Kentuckians Can Catch A 3-Act Show Of Cosmic Proportions


A full moon, a lunar eclipse and a comet -- oh, my! Kentuckians will have the chance to see all three Friday night. That is, if you know what you are looking for.

Let’s start with the moon:

“The moon, somewhere on planet earth, several times a year has what is called an annular eclipse,” says Drew Foster, the technical coordinator and educator at the Rauch Planetarium. “It’s a partial eclipse. In our case, it is a full moon weekend called the hunger moon or the snow moon.”

According to Foster, as the moon is rising around 7:40 p.m., it will be eclipsing. But since it is a partial eclipse, the changes will be subtle. The moon will appear a little more gray and the dark spots on the moon with be even darker. But these changes will still be visible to the naked eye.

After mid-eclipse, the graying begins to yield to the moon’s normal brightness

Then there’s the comet — Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusáková, to be specific — which Foster says has had a rough couple of days.

“It was a pretty greenish comet with a big, long, white tail,” Foster says. “And then it went around the sun on its way through our solar system and the sun pretty much ate the tail.”

The comet is much dimmer, is missing a tail, and will not be visible without a telescope.

But Foster says if you know exactly where to look — the comet will pass through the constellation of Hercules at about 3 a.m. — there’s still a chance you could spot it.

“I hate to be a reality check, but the triple threat just isn’t going to be that cool this weekend,” Foster says.

However, if you want to gather with fellow stargazers to try to catch some of the galactic action, Foster says that on the second Friday of the month, which is tomorrow, the Rauch Planetarium offers a live look at the night sky at 8 p.m.

“And following that show, weather-permitting, the Louisville Astronomical Society is here in our courtyard with telescopes set up,” Foster says. “There won’t be a chance to catch the comet until later, but there will be real telescopes looking at perhaps a planet or two that are up in the sky right now, and the LAS members can explain the odd rising moon situation.”

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