The second full moon of the decade — called the snow moon — will shine bold and bright in the sky Saturday. Some are even calling it a supermoon, the celestial body’s orbit bringing it close enough to Earth that the natural night light will appear a bit brighter than normal. It’s the perfect recipe to enjoy a quaint weekend evening gazing upward and enjoying the spectacle.
How can I see it?
The full moon will rise at 4:58 p.m. Saturday in Washington, 5:33 p.m. in Oklahoma City and 5:03 p.m. in Los Angeles. It will remain visible all night long, finally retiring about sunrise Sunday.
The moon will appear largest when it’s closest to the horizon thanks to how our mind plays tricks on us. Make sure you arrive a few minutes before moonrise and have an unobstructed view of the horizon if you’re looking for the best show. (In areas where the temperature rises with height, the moon might even look a bit wider than tall.) It will first climb in the northeast.
What’s the definition of a supermoon?
There’s no official definition of a supermoon, but several sources have come up with their own stringent requirements.
According to Time and Date, a supermoon occurs “when the center of the Moon is less than 223,694 miles from the center of Earth.” Seeing as though Saturday’s moon will be 225,234 miles away, it’s not a supermoon by this definition.
Astrologer Richard Nolle argues that a full moon must occur during the closest 10 percent of its orbit about Earth to be classified as a supermoon. That also won’t happen Saturday night, according to EarthSky, which used averages over the course of a year’s worth of lunar orbits to make its calculation.
Nolle and Time and Date both conclude that only two supermoons will occur in 2020.
But if you’re really rooting for Saturday’s moon to be a supermoon, you’re in luck. AstroPixel.com has ruled that this is a supermoon. It used historical averages pertaining to the moon’s mean distance relative to the Earth and found that this weekend’s full moon can be dubbed a supermoon. In fact, it also says a supermoon will occur in March, April and May — that makes four supermoons this year.
If it feels like every moon these days is being branded as “super,” you’re apparently not imagining things. Can it get any better!
What will it look like?
Because supermoons appear slightly larger than your average moon, they also shine acutely brighter. But NASA says not to get overexcited.
“Looking around you when the full moon is high in the sky and there are no other lights around, the differences in ground illumination are indistinguishable to our eyes,” it writes.
Does this moon have a special name?
This weekend’s full moon is called the snow moon. That’s because it occurs in the dead of winter, which in most areas is climatologically favored to feature an increase in snow. Noted groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, however, would suggest “not so fast, my friend” in 2020.
A ring around the moon on cool winter nights can indicate ice crystals and very cold air aloft, or impending low-level moisture as disturbed weather approaches.
Is this supermoon really super?
No, according to this writer.