January brought us the rare phenomenon that is a Super Blood Wolf Moon, and now February is set to deliver astronomers a treat in the form of another supermoon.
A dazzling bright full moon is in store on 19 February, with the moon appearing larger and more brilliant in the night sky.
Here’s everything you need to know about what’s dubbed the Super Snow Moon.
What is a supermoon?
The moon – our planet’s only natural satellite – actually follows an elliptical orbit around the Earth.
This means that at certain points on its egg-shaped path, it can be further away, or closer to us – a differential of about 30,000 miles.
The closest point is called the perigee, and the furthest is the apogee. When a full moon falls on the perigee, it appears far bigger and brighter in the sky and becomes known as a supermoon.
The phenomenon is not actually that rare, and this month’s is the second in a trilogy that began with January’s full moon, and ends with a third on 21 March.
What will the moon look like?
January’s supermoon was much talked about because of its coincidence with a total lunar eclipse, which turned the moon a spooky shade of red.
February’s offering is slightly less exciting (the moon will remain its standard white), but there’s still reason to look up – it will be the ‘largest’ supermoon of 2019.
The diameter of the moon will appear to be about 14 per cent greater than an average full moon, and what’s more, the disc size and brightness of this February full moon is expected to be about 30 per cent greater than usual.
Why is it called a ‘Snow’ Moon?
In recent years, traditional Native American names for the full moons have become more common in modern day parlance.
January’s ‘Wolf Moon’ was so called because that month’s full moon traditionally coincided with the wild howling of wolves on a bleak winter’s night on the plains of America.
The Snow Moon is another Native American name, and February’s full moon is simply named after the snow often found on the ground during the month.
It certainly conjures up a romantic image; the light of the full moon glinting off a coating of snow on a still night.
Some tribes named it the Hunger Moon due to the scarce food sources and hard hunting conditions during mid-winter, while others named it the Storm Moon.
When can I see it?
February’s supermoon will be in the night sky on the evening of Tuesday 19 February.
It will rise just after 5pm, and won’t set until about 8am the next morning, meaning it will be visible in all its glory throughout the night – clear skies permitting of course.
For the best effect – and the closest you’ll get to witnessing the spectacular images seen across social media following such an event – you’ll want to look east shortly after moonrise.
“When the moon is near the horizon, it can look unnaturally large when viewed through trees, buildings, or other foreground objects,” say NASA.
“The effect is an optical illusion, but that fact doesn’t take away from the experience.”
Originally published on our sister title, iNews