Stargazers have a wonderful celestial show to look forward to next week. The February full moon is about to rise in just a few short days and will grace the sky with a dazzling appearance right at the beginning of the week.
Also known as the "Snow Moon," the full moon of February will treat sky watchers to a glamorous performance in 2019. If last year the world missed out on the "Snow Moon" – there was no full moon in February of 2018, but we did have a second full moon (also known as a "Blue Moon") in March – this year things couldn't be more different. Not only will we get to witness the "Snow Moon" in full bloom, but it will also be a supermoon — the most extraordinary supermoon of the entire year to boot.
Why Is It Called The 'Snow Moon'?
Just like all the other full moons of the year, the full moon of February also goes by many names.
February's full moon is most commonly known as the "Snow Moon," given that February sees the most snowfall of all the 12 months. According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, this particular month brings heavy snowfall across the U.S., with data from the National Weather Service pointing to February as the snowiest month of the year.
Given the weather conditions, February was typically a difficult month for hunters and left early communities facing challenges when it came to hunting for food. This is why Native American tribes and early American colonists referred to the February full moon as the "Hunger Moon" or the "Little Famine Moon."
Other traditional names for the February full moon are the "Storm Moon," the "Wolf Moon," and the "Full Bony Moon."
The 2019 'Snow Moon'
This year, the "Snow Moon" rises on February 19. The moon will reach its full phase at 10:53 a.m. EST on Tuesday morning. However, it will still appear full the night before and after its peak, so break out your telescopes on Monday and Tuesday night as well.
"The moon will be in the constellation Leo, and it will rise about 10 minutes after sunset."No matter the time of day – whether you go for a moonlit walk in the crisp February night or you hunker down with your telescope and wait for the moonrise – you won't want to miss this year's "Snow Moon." In 2019, the February full moon will also be a supermoon – the second and most glamorous one of the year.
The February Supermoon
By definition, a supermoon is a full moon that occurs when the moon is at its closest to Earth. This means that the full moon coincides with the moon's perigee – the closest point to Earth in its elliptical orbit around our planet.
In 2019, sky watchers will get the rare opportunity to enjoy three supermoons in a row. Of these three, the February supermoon will be nearest, largest, and brightest.
The first supermoon of 2019 was the "Super Blood Wolf Moon" of January, when the full "Wolf Moon" occurred close to the perigee (making it a supermoon) and coincided with a stunning moon eclipse (meaning that the moon was 100 percent full and donned a spectacular red color, hence the "Blood Moon" moniker.)
In January, the full moon peaked more than 14 hours before perigee. In February, the full moon will be a lot closer to Earth, blooming six hours after perigee.
On February 19, the moon will be at its closest point to Earth at 4:07 a.m. EST – just a few hours before it becomes officially full. At the time of the perigee, the supermoon will be 221,681 miles away from Earth. Given that the average distance between the moon and our planet is about 240,000 miles, the close proximity to Earth will make the February supermoon appear significantly larger and more luminous in the sky.
As Space explains, supermoons are typically bigger and brighter. A supermoon is 7 percent larger and 15 percent brighter than an ordinary full moon. At the same time, supermoons are 14 percent bigger and up to 30 percent more luminous than full moons occurring at apogee – the furthest orbital point from Earth.
"Through binoculars or a small telescope, the full moon will appear almost unbearably bright," Space points out.
Even though the extreme brightness of the "Snow Moon" won't damage your eyes, it will, however, make it difficult to spot details on the lunar surface due to the lack of shadows that normally provide contrast. Not to worry though, as there's plenty of time until Tuesday to pick up a moon filter for your telescope. You can find a decent selection of moon filters on Amazon.
After the February "Snow Moon," the next supermoon of 2019 occurs in March. Next month's full moon, also known as the "Worm Moon," rises on March 20 and will peak about 30 hours after the moon reaches perigee.