A Full ‘Snow’ Moon will illuminate the sky on Sunday night – the first ‘supermoon’ of the decade.
The Snow Moon is the name given to the February full moon because it often coincides with with heavy snowfall, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
It was also traditionally known as the Hunger Moon due to the challenging hunting conditions at this time of year.
In the UK, the Snow Moon will rise at around 15:50 GMT on Saturday, February 8, and be visible throughout the night until 07:55 on Sunday, before rising again at 17:15.
The exact moment of ‘fullness’, when the Moon is directly opposite the Sun is at 07:33 on Sunday, February 9.
An airplane silhouettes against the last year’s Snow Moon on February 19, 2019 in Nuremberg, southern Germany
Last year’s February supermoon over London. The exact moment of ‘fullness’ for this February’s supermoon will be at 07:33 GMT on Sunday morning, February 9
The Moon will appear full for about three days around this time, from Friday evening to Monday morning, making this a full Moon weekend.
However, the arrival of Storm Ciara may affect viewing conditions for people in the UK, with the Met Office forecasting cloud and rain across most of the country on Sunday morning.
A supermoon occurs when the full moon nearly coincides with perigee – the closest that the Moon comes to the Earth in its elliptic orbit.
This means it appears up to 14 per cent larger and 30 per cent brighter than normal, when viewed from Earth.
The full moon on February 9, 2020, almost coincides with the perigee on February 10, making it the fourth-closest (and therefore the fourth-largest) full moon of 2020.
The February 2019 supermoon as it was in the early hours of the morning above Rome, Italy
But commentators disagree on whether it should be dubbed a ‘supermoon’.
According to astronomer Fred Espenak, the February 9 full moon is a supermoon, because it is within 90 per cent of its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit.
However, others claims that a supermoon only occurs when the centre of the moon is less than 223,694 miles (360,000 kilometres) from the centre of Earth.
By this definition, only the full moons of March and April count as full supermoons in 2020.
Regardless, it should make a spectacular site for those lucky enough to catch a glimpse through the clouds.
If possible, one of the best times to view the moon is when it is close to the horizon, due to an optical illusion that makes it appear even bigger due to its relative size compared to buildings, trees and statues in the distance.
Astronomers advise photographers and sky gazers to download apps and maps to track the progress of the moon across the sky in order to make sightings easier.
A plane from travelling towards the Argentine city of Bahia Blanca passes in front of a supermoon event, as seen from Buenos Aires, Argentina
Stargazers across the United States were treated to a stunning showing of the ‘Snow Moon’ last year. The Empire State building is shown in the foreground as a supermoon rises
And for keen stargazers, there is more to be seen besides the Moon this weekend.
‘On the morning of the full moon on Febuary 9, as morning twilight begins, the planet Jupiter will be the brightest planet in the sky, appearing in the southeast at about 8 degrees above the horizon,’ said NASA’s Gordon Johnston.
‘The planet Saturn will appear next in brightness to the lower left of Jupiter at about 2 degrees above the horizon.
‘Lying roughly in a line with Saturn and Jupiter, the planet Mars will appear to the upper right of Jupiter at about 19 degrees above the horizon.’
Those looking skyward on Sunday evening could even spot an asteroid flying past, according to Johnston.
‘On Sunday evening, sometime around 8 PM EST (2020-Feb-10 00:49 UTC with 1 hour, 15 minutes uncertainty), Near Earth Object (2020 BK10), between 15 and 34 meters (50 to 112 feet) in diameter, will pass the Earth at 1.9 lunar distances, travelling at 11.45 kilometres per second (25,600 miles per hour).’
WHAT IS A SUPERMOON?
A supermoon takes place when the moon is full and its orbit at its perigee point is closest to Earth.
As the moon orbits in an ellipse its closest point – the perigee – will come very close to earth. The farthest point of the ellipse is called the apogee.
When a full moon appears at perigee, the moon looks brighter and larger than a regular moon, hence the nickname supermoon.
February 19 will see the second lunar spectacle in a supermoon trilogy.
The first supermoon was the ‘Blood Wolf Super Moon’ on January 21 and the third will take place on March 21.
On February 19, the moon will be 221,734 miles from Earth.
For New Yorkers, the moon will rise at 5.46pm and will set at 7.35am on February 20, as per the U.S. Naval Observatory.
And it’ll be officially full at 10.53am EST according to NASA’s Skycal.