Night Sky Watch: Comet passing by Earth again at Stupid O’Clock* tomorrow morning, also penumbral lunar eclipse tonight

This photo of Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova was taken by Michael Jäger of Austria, during an earlier pass on September 29, 2011. (Photo copyright Michael Jäger, 2011)
This photo of Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova was taken by Michael Jäger of Austria, during an earlier pass on September 29, 2011. (Photo copyright Michael Jäger, 2011)
Comet 45P/HMP passes by Earth at dawn tomorrow

If you find yourself up at dawn tomorrow, go ahead and look up into the dawn sky. Who knows? You might just catch a glimpse of Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova swinging past Earth on its way back to the outer solar system.

Discovered in 1948, Comet 45P/HMP is a middle-aged dwarf comet with a nucleus that is roughly half a mile across. Its orbit takes it past the Earth every five years or so.

Dawn watchers should look for the comet near the constellations of Aquila and Hercules.

(In case, you, like me, need help spotting specific constellations in the night sky, check out 15 Constellations Every Man Should Know (And How to Find Them) on The Art of Manliness Blog. There are smartphone apps for spotting constellations, too, of course. We here at Caterpickles Central are partial to Star Walk.)

Don’t feel like getting up at Stupid O’Clock*? That’s ok, there’s a penumbral lunar eclipse tonight.

Starting at 6:14 p.m. EST this evening, sharp-eyed sky watchers in the Americas will be treated to a penumbral lunar eclipse. The views will be best in the eastern portion of North America, as well as Central and South America, but even us Midwesterners might be able to catch a glimpse of the action before the eclipse ends. Maximum shading of the moon is projected to happen at 7:44 p.m. EST.

What’s the difference between a penumbral eclipse and a total lunar eclipse? 

Tonight’s eclipse is what’s called a penumbral eclipse, not a total lunar eclipse. The moon won’t turn red, but will simply be dimmer than usual. That’s because in tonight’s eclipse, the moon is only passing through the penumbral shadow (the edge of the Earth’s shadow), and the light from the sun will only be partially blocked.

In a total lunar eclipse, the moon passes through the Earth’s umbral shadow. There, the Earth fully blocks the light from the sun. Indirect sunlight is still able to reach the moon, however, which is why the moon appears red in a total lunar eclipse, instead of going fully dark.

For more on the various types of lunar eclipses, check out this handy guide for beginners on

* Thanks to The Nine-Year-Old’s Uncle Phil for the phrase, Stupid O’Clock, hands-down our favorite way to refer to the painfully early morning hours. 

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  1. What the news doesn’t get right is that the moon is going to be right in the way, not blocking the comet, but shining bright enough to blot it out unless you catch it just right with powerful binos or a good telescope. It’s not going to be that spectacular due to the brightness of the moon. Certainly not the show-stopper the news is bragging it up to be. I’m not even going to bother. For one, I’ve seen better with less effort. For another, it’s going to be completely overcast and maybe even raining.


    • Too cloudy here for us to get a good view as well. The moon looks really cool, though, behind all those clouds. I caught myself searching the streets for werewolves. Then realized I’d been reading too much paranormal stuff again and took out a respectable historical fiction novel by Sara Donati.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I read paranormal once in a while but tend to go for icky bug (b-movie monster horror). I find very little of that out there. Or, if I do it’s either first-person, present tense or omniscient, all of which I find unreadable.


    • Your rants on your blog about first person always make me laugh. I tried to write a book once in first person, and while it really helped me understand the character better, the writing itself went much better once I rewrote everything in third.

      Liked by 1 person

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