One of the brightest, biggest, and best full moons of the year will rise at dusk this Saturday night.

By Jamie Carter
February 04, 2020
Advertisement

Everyone's seen a sunset, but have you ever watched a moonrise? Get to the right place at the right time each month and you can — clear skies allowing — glimpse one of nature’s greatest sights. The sight of a pale orange full moon climbing above the eastern horizon, peeking out from between trees or buildings, is always a sight to behold.

When the moon is slightly bigger than usual, the effect is magnified, and that’s what will happen at dusk this Saturday, February 8 with the rise of the “Super Snow Moon.”

What is a supermoon?

A supermoon happens when the full moon coincides with the moment when the moon is closest to Earth during its 29.5 day orbit. The moon orbits our planet not in a perfect circle, but in an ellipse, so there are two clear points when it’s at its nearest and furthest away from Earth. That closet point is called perigee by astronomers, so when it does sync with the full moon, it’s called a perigee full moon. That phenomenon has recently become popularly known as a “supermoon.”

When is the ‘Super Snow Moon’?

The moon will enter its full phase — when it’s Earth-facing side is 100% illuminated by the sun — at 2:33 a.m. Universal Time on Sunday, February 9. That translates to 9:33 p.m. EST on Saturday. The moon is at perigee just 36 hours later on Monday, February 10, so it’s not a perfect match, but it’s close enough.

The super snow moon seen from Santa Ana College rises above the clouds at sunset in Santa Ana on Monday, February 18, 2019
MediaNews Group/Orange County Re/Getty Images

When will the ‘Super Snow Moon’ look its best?

At moonrise on the evening of Saturday, February 8 and at moonset on the morning of Sunday, February 9. That’s because the full moon is a pale orange color as it rises and sets, and only on a “full moon day” does it appear around the same time as sunset. Thanks to the “supermoon effect” and the moon's proximity to the horizon, the moon will also look very large then.

When can you see the ‘Super Snow Moon’?

The best time to look at the “Super Snow Moon” will be at moonrise on Saturday night. From New York City, look northeast at 4:41 p.m. on Saturday, February 8, and from Los Angeles, watch from 5:03 p.m. Be patient, and the full moon will appear, clear skies allowing. If you want another look, inspect the western sky the following morning, on Sunday, February 9, from New York City at 7:27 a.m. and from Los Angeles at 7:16 a.m.

When is the next big moon event?

On Tuesday, February 18, the moon will pass in front of Mars. Known by astronomers as an occultation, the rare sight — visible from North America — will see the Moon pass directly between the Earth and the “red planet”. However, the moon won’t be in its full phase, but visible only as a crescent in the southeastern night sky. You’ll need to be up before dawn to see Mars appear to move behind the moon for about two hours.

When is the next full moon?

Just as February’s “Super Snow Moon” occurs close to the moon’s perigee, so will March, April, and May’s full moons. The next full moon is the “Super Worm Moon” on Monday, March 9, 2020.