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There's a lot of celestial activity happening in the night sky in New York State

A flat map of the Earth with red highlights that show where the penumbral eclipse can be seen
Nick Risinger/SkyGuide
"The darkest red areas are where the entire eclipse will be visible. Light red indicates regions where the moon rises or sets while the eclipse is in progress."

Just two weeks before the big show in Western New York (The Total Solar Eclipse), tonight the sky may give us a special opening act. A penumbral eclipse, a comet, and the planet Mercury may be visible from Western New York. Also, the southern line of the Northern Lights may be visible from Western New York.

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

Tonight, a penumbral lunar eclipse may be visible and Western New York is in a favorable location to see the entire event.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Sun, Earth, and the Moon are in direct line with each other while the Moon is the Earth’s shadow. The inner part of the shadow where the Sun is completely blocked is called the “umbra.” When only a portion of the Sun is blocked, that is called the penumbra. A lunar eclipse where the Moon never moves into Earth’s umbra is called a penumbral.

The schedule for when the penumbral eclipse can be visible is as follows:

  • Moon rises at 7:03 p.m. 
  • The penumbral eclipse begins at 12:53 a.m. 
  • Penumbral eclipse ends at 5:32 a.m. 
  • The moon sets at 7:26 a.m. 

Look out for Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks

The comet 12P/Pons-Brooks is on the cusp of naked-eye visibility for the Northern Hemisphere. The SkyGuide has 12P at a magnitude of approximately +6, meaning that it is in the range of naked-eye visibility under dark skies. The comet will still be easily visible using binoculars or small telescopes.

Comets like 12P/Pons-Brooks will glow green because of their chemicals. Stargazers can look for the comet in the low west just as the twilight of the evening subsides.

Some planets will be visible

The planet Mercury will be visible tonight in the evening twilight as it begins to set. Mercury will be visible between 8 and 9 p.m. A small telescope may be useful in viewing the planet. It will be the next brightest star-like object in the sky, below Jupiter. Jupiter is the only planet that will be easily visible to the naked eye in the evening. Jupiter will be visible from around 8 p.m. until approximately 11 p.m.

Northern Lights may be seen from New York State

Yesterday, the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Space Weather Prediction Center issued a “geomagnetic storm warning,” following eruptions on the Sun’s surface that are sending a stream of aurora-causing particles.

This means that there is a chance for the Northern Lights to be seen tonight from New York State. The best time to see the show would be during the darkest hours of 10 p.m. until 2 a.m. It would also be best to view the Northern Lights in an environment that isn’t well-lit, such as in the city.