Three rare astronomical events all happening tonight - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Three rare astronomical events all happening tonight

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KENNEWICK, WA - Because of all this snow piling up around us, it seems like we've spent a lot of time looking down at the ground. But tonight, we've got a reason - or rather, three reasons - to look up at the sky.

Tonight, we're seeing a penumbral lunar eclipse, a "snow moon", and in case that wasn't enough, we'll be looking at a comet as well. The exact moment of this lunar eclipse actually happened already at 4:43 this afternoon, but you'll still be able to see it as the moon continues to rise.

This lunar eclipse is a little different than what you'd normally imagine. The moon won't be turning red, and it won't look like there's a bite taken out of it...and that's because the moon will be sitting in the Earth's penumbra, or outer shadow, instead of the umbra; the direct, inner shadow. What we will see is a little bit of a darker moon than normal.

But if that's not enough visual for you, we'll also have a full moon tonight. A February full moon is also known as a "snow moon", because February is generally the snowiest month of the year.

But that's not all! The moon might be spectacular enough on its own, but Comet 45P will be swooping in closer to Earth than it ever has before. If you're a little concerned about how close that comet might come, don't worry - "close" in these terms means Comet 45P will actually be about 7.4 million miles away. It's been visible for two months now through binoculars and telescopes, and tonight around midnight you may just be able to see it with your bare eyes.