Lunar aficionados, listen up: The next full moon is coming this Sunday, Feb. 5. Known as the snow moon, it will reach its peak illumination at 1:30 p.m. EST (6:30 p.m. GMT). Yet that won't be the best time to enjoy it, since it will be below the horizon at that time. For the best views, look for it in the night sky Sunday evening if you're in the Northern Hemisphere.
The full snow moon arrives at a cold dark time of year. Yet it is near the bright star Regulus. Regulus is the brightest star in the constellation of Leo the lion. The snow moon should climb in the east shortly after sunset, glow high in the south near midnight, and drop low in the west shortly before sunrise in the morning sky on Feb. 6.
How the Snow Moon Got Its Name
All full moons have nicknames and often several of them, usually given by Native American tribes. In the U.S., February's full moon is dubbed the snow moon because February historically is the snowiest month in the Northern Hemisphere. Extrapolating from that, the Cherokee called this moon both the bony moon and hungry moon, implying food was scarce during this month of cold, snowy weather.
Nicknames for North American moons are often linked to animals and their activities, too (for instance, the beaver moon rises in November). Bear moon and black bear moon, which come from the Ojibwe and Tlingit, respectively, were used to describe February's full moon since bear cubs are born at this time.
A full moon may also be a supermoon or a micromoon. Supermoons, as their name implies, appear larger than typical full moons because they are closer than normal to Earth's orbit. Micromoons are the opposite. They look smaller than normal because they are farther from Earth. The Feb. 5 full moon will be the second of two micromoons in 2023, the first having occurred in January.
Interestingly, most of us can't tell the difference in size between a normal full moon, supermoon or micromoon, even though a micromoon can appear up to 14 percent smaller than a supermoon. And while micromoons often look duller than other full moons, due to their further distance from Earth, February's snow moon will be easy to see because the leaves normally adorning deciduous trees will be gone. And if you live in an area with snow on the ground, the full moon's display will be even more impressive, as its light will reflect off the snow.
Should you miss the snow moon, March's full moon – the worm moon – will reach its peak illumination at 7:42 a.m. EST (12 noon GMT) Tuesday, March 7, 2023.
Now That's Interesting
Moons have eight phases. The four primary phases are new moon, first quarter, full moon and
third quarter. The four secondary phases are waxing crescent moon, waxing gibbous moon, waning gibbous moon and waning crescent moon.
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