How to See the Super Snow Moon, the Biggest and Brightest Moon of the Year
Are you ready for the biggest supermoon of the year? On Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, the full moon will be closer than at any other point in the year. It's actually the second, and largest, of three supermoons to kick off 2019 that began with last month's Super Wolf Blood Moon total lunar eclipse.
Though it won't be as dramatic as the Super Wolf Blood Moon since the moon will not turn red, the rise of the Super Snow Moon — also called the Storm Moon and Hunger Moon because of it being at the coldest time of year — promises to be a special sight.
What is a supermoon?
A supermoon is when the moon looks larger than usual because it's closer. The moon orbits Earth in a slight ellipse and each month it reaches both its closest point (perigee) and farthest away point (apogee). Every month there is a supermoon and a micromoon. However, it's only when a supermoon coincides with a full moon that the event results in the biggest, brightest and best moon. On Feb. 19 the moon will be 221,681 miles (356,761 km) from Earth. It doesn't often get any closer than that.
When is the Super Snow Moon?
Our satellite will be in its fullest phase during the morning in North America, which may sound like bad timing, but actually gives observers in the U.S. and Canada three chances to view a large Super Snow Moon almost at its peak. Although the full moon will occur at precisely 10:53 a.m. EST and 07:53 a.m. PST on Feb. 19, all full moons are best looked at during dusk and dawn. That’s particularly true of a supermoon, which tends to look larger when viewed in the context of trees and buildings on the horizon rather than when it’s risen high into the sky.
Since the full moon is on the opposite side of Earth to the sun, and hence fully illuminated, it rises in the east in the evening as the sun sets in the west, and sets in the west as the sun rises in the east. That means a setting or rising Super Snow Moon will be best observed Monday night and twice on Tuesday.
When to watch the Super Snow Moon
The first chance to see the Super Snow Moon close to the horizon will come close to sunset on Monday, Feb. 18. Watch the eastern horizon for a bigger-than-usual full moon to rise at 4:30 p.m. EST and 4:49 p.m. PST. The following morning around sunrise will get you officially the biggest-looking moon you'll see in 2019 when our satellite sets in the west at 6:55 a.m. EST and 06:46 a.m. PST. However, later that day the Super Snow Moon will put on the third show when it rises in the east at 5:46 p.m. EST and 6:02 p.m. PST.
How to see a 'false dawn' after the Super Snow Moon
Have you ever seen "zodiacal light"? By the end of this week, the Super Snow Moon will be rising a few hours after sunset, which will give you a chance to see a strange triangle of light in the west above where the sun has recently set. Visible only from a very dark sky site, this odd sight is sunlight reflecting from dust in the solar system. It's easiest to see during the two weeks after February's full moon.
When is the next full moon?
The next full moon, known as the Worm Moon, Sap Moon or Crow Moon, will occur on March 20, the same day as the spring or vernal equinox. Not only will the full moon virtually coincide with the start of Spring, but it will be the third and final supermoon of 2019. Though not as close to Earth as the Super Snow Moon, the Super Worm Moon will be the last supermoon until March 2020.