Tuesday’s supermoon, the second in a series of three, will be the brightest of 2019. Early Native American tribes called it the “snow moon” because the February full moon was associated with heavy snowfall on the tribes’ winter camps.
Technically, the February full moon will be at its closest orbit to Earth around 10:54 a.m. Eastern Time Tuesday morning, but you won’t be able to see it then. Instead, look up Tuesday night around moonrise for for a glimpse of the lunar orb.
“Full moon” is a bit of a misnomer for Tuesday’s event, according to Space.com.
“When the moon comes above your local horizon on Tuesday evening, technically you’ll be looking not at a ‘full’ moon, but a waning gibbous moon,” the site explains. “Though a full moon theoretically lasts just a moment, that moment is imperceptible to ordinary observation. And so, for a day or so before and after the moment of full moon, most will speak of the nearly full moon as being ‘full.’ During these times, the shaded strip on the moon is so narrow, and changing in apparent width so slowly, that it is hard for the naked eye to tell whether the darkened section present or on which side it is located.”
See Also: 2019 Guide To Meteor Showers, Supermoons, Celestial Events
Moonrise is around 5:46 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday. Click here for the moonrise time where you live.
You might also hear February’s full moon referred to as the “bone moon” or “hunger moon,” according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. Food was so scare during this time that people gnawed on bones and ate bone marrow soup for sustenance.
This month’s supermoon won’t be as dramatic as January’s super blood wolf moon, which was accompanied by a total lunar eclipse. And there’s a big difference from February 2018, when there was a “black moon” — that is no full moon at all — a phenomenon that occurs once every 19 years.
The term supermoon didn’t come from astronomy. Rather, astrologer Richard Nolle coined the term in 1979, defining a supermoon as a new or full moon that occurs when it is at its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit.
“Interestingly, nobody paid much attention to Nolle’s definition until March 19, 2011, when the full moon arrived at an exceptionally close perigee, coming within 126 miles (203 kilometers) of its closest possible approach to Earth,” Joe Rao writes for Space.com.
Until Nolle “branded” the supermoon, astronomers called the full moon that coincided with perigee as a “perigean full moon,” and it passed without notice.
“Now,” Rao continues, “it seems that every time a full moon coincides with perigee, it is referred to as a supermoon. Once a year, the moon turns full within several hours of perigee; after next Tuesday, the next time this will occur will be on April 7, 2020.”
Even so, next month’s full moon, which occurs March 20-21, is branded as a supermoon, even though it will occur nearly 26 hours after perigee.
“That’s seemingly because they fall within 90 percent of the moon’s closest approach to Earth — or, in other words, within the top 10 percent of the closest full moons,” Rao explains.
Regardless, if the weather is cooperating, it’s still worth looking up and pondering, perhaps as the tune of the “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” dances through your head.
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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