Lonely Planet Writer

Chinese New Year Lantern Festival to be marked by comet and rare lunar eclipse

Chinese New Year revellers will be able to enjoy a rare lunar event during the Lantern Festival this week. A prenumbral lunar eclipse of a full moon is set to occur on 10/11 February, coinciding with the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first lunar month.

China's Lantern Festival.
China’s Lantern Festival. Image by Excelsior Elementary Chinese Cultural Events on Facebook

In addition, a comet will be visible in the night sky as it passes close to earth at the same time. During a prenumbral lunar eclipse, the moon passes through the earth’s outer shadow – called the prenumbra – so it is not fully darkened as it would be if plunging into the full darkness of the umbra – the earth’s deepest shadow.

A photo posted by Rodolfo Mandac (@rodiphotis) on Feb 10, 2017 at 3:16am PST

The eclipse will begin at around 10.30pm UTC on 10 February and be at its darkest around 12.45am UTC. At that time, the moon will appear veiled in shadow, but will still be visible as full moon. The last time a prenumbral eclipse was seen during the Lantern Festival was in 2009.

Additionally, the 45P/Honda – Mrkos – Pajdušáková comet will be visible through binoculars in dark hours on 10-11 February, travelling through the constellations Hercules, the Northern Crown, Boötes’ and Ursa Major.

A photo posted by @beg____ on Feb 9, 2017 at 11:54pm PST

The Lantern Festival marks the final day of the Chinese New Year period and the first full moon of the lunar new year. In China, it is typically celebrated by the lighting of paper lanterns, holding lion dances and eating tangyuan (glutinous rice dumplings).

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