Northern Ireland

Eclipse of the 'Snow Moon' awaited

Lunar eclipse Image copyright Lisa Southgate
Image caption Plenty of clear gaps in the sky are expected to allow lots of viewing opportunities for Friday's eclipse

Astronomers across the island of Ireland are in for a treat later as a lunar eclipse graces the sky.

This is not a total eclipse - that will not happen until 2019.

Instead, this is a penumbral eclipse, where the earth passes between the moon and sun, blocking out sunlight and casting a shadow on the surface of the moon.

On Friday night,, stargazers will notice the top of the moon becoming much dimmer than the bottom.

Clear skies

The eclipse coincides with what is known as the Snow Moon - a full moon that occurs in February, historically marking the snowiest month in North America.

One thing is certain, it is going to be a very cold night with temperatures widely falling below freezing.

The good news is, plenty of clear gaps in the sky are expected to allow lots of viewing opportunity.

"This is going to be the highlight of the year," said David Moore, editor of Astronomy Ireland magazine.

"We are strongly urging everyone to go out and look up at this spectacle of nature."

The eclipse begins at 22:34 GMT and dimming of the moon will start to become detectable with the naked eye after 23:00.

It is due to peak at 00:44 on Saturday before ending at 02:53.

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