Tuesday morning will be a big moment for astronomy lovers: It marks the time when the Super Snow Moon will appear at its largest. And it’s a sight you’re not going to want to miss.
The Super Snow Moon on Tuesday is actually the second supermoon of the year. However, this supermoon will be extra special as it also marks the moon’s closest approach to Earth all year.
A supermoon occurs when the moon both makes its closest approach (known as a perigee) and is also in its full moon state. This makes it appear larger and brighter than normal. The name “Super Snow Moon” doesn’t mean it’s actually going to snow. The naming convention is thanks to the Native American tradition of naming full moons to mark the changing of seasons. February’s full moon is often referred to as the “Snow Moon” or the “Hunger Moon,” according to The Farmer’s Almanac.
On Tuesday, the moon will be just 221,000 miles from Earth. That means it will be about 17,000 miles closer to Earth than average, USA Today reported. Again, this approach happens because the moon’s orbit is not in a perfect circle, but rather more of an oval shape. So, when it comes in close (Perigree) it’s known as a supermoon, and when it’s at its furthest distance it’s known as a micromoon.
According to NASA, Tuesday’s supermoon will appear up to 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than a full moon at its furthest distance from earth. The moon will also appear larger when it rises above the horizon. That is because of the “moon illusion,” USA Today reported.
“The moon isn’t actually bigger, it just looks like it,” Dean Regas, astronomer for the Cincinnati Observatory, told USA Today about the moon illusion. “This perceived increase in size happens whenever you see the moon, regardless of its phase, near the horizon.”
While this week’s supermoon event will be the largest of the year, you’ll still get one more chance to experience a smaller supermoon on March 20. That moon is known as the Worm Moon. While it may not be the largest of this year’s supermoon, it will still be special because it occurs on the same day as the spring or vernal equinox. That supermoon will be the last until March 2020.