Full moon february snow moon supermoon

A statue atop Milan’s Duomo Cathedral is pictured as the Super Snow Moon rises on 19 February 2019. Photo: AFP/Andreas Solaro

Snow moon 2020: Everything you need to know

February’s snow moon is controversial: while some researchers consider it to a be supermoon, others disagree. Here’s why.

Full moon february snow moon supermoon

A statue atop Milan’s Duomo Cathedral is pictured as the Super Snow Moon rises on 19 February 2019. Photo: AFP/Andreas Solaro

There’ll be 13 full moons this year, including two supermoons and one blue moon. The first supermoon is February’s Snow moon, followed by a supermoon in March and April as well.

However, astronomers are divided when it comes to February’s Snow moon. Many feel that it’s not close enough to Earth to be classified as a supermoon.

Here’s everything you need to know about February’s Snow moon, from the origin of its name to when, where and how to view it. First, let’s look at the definition of a supermoon.

What is a supermoon?

When a full moon coincides with a perigee, we get a super moon. The moon tonight will appear unusually large but it’s still only 362 478 kilometres from Earth. The Snow moon in February 2019 was 356 846 km away.

super moon
Image credit: Pixabay

The benchmark for a Supermoon has been set at 360 000, meaning that this year’s Snow moon misses it by about 2 000 kilometres. Many in the field believe that it’s such a small distance, astronomically speaking, that it may as well be called a super moon.

It might not look bigger than usual to the untrained eye, but experienced observers will detect the difference. That said, the moon will definitely be brighter.

This is due to the angular diameter – it’s about 7% greater than that of an averagely sized moon, and 14% greater than the diameter of a micro moon – also known as an apogee.

Why is it called a snow moon?

Different types of full moons have different names: Wolf Moon in January, Snow Moon in February, Worm Moon in March, and so forth. These names have been in circulation for centuries because moons were associated with the changing seasons.

Image credit: Pixabay

Snow moon got its name for the heavy snowfall that is associated with the month of February. It’s also been called “bone moon” or “hunger moon” due to the lack of food during the winter in northern hemispheres.

When and how to see it

According to TimeAndDate, the exact moment when the Snow moon is the fullest is at 7:33 am GMT on Sunday 9 February 2020. If you’re in South Africa, that will be at 9:33 SAST.

However, the best viewing time will be Saturday night. Even though the moon is already pretty impressive, the ideal viewing time would be from 3:00 on Sunday, 9 February.

Will it affect us?

The ocean tides, yes. The tides, known as perigean spring tides, will be elevated even more. It can cause flooding, which will typically occur when a strong weather system accompanies an exceptionally high spring tide.

Full moon february snow moon supermoon
A Super Snow Moon rises behind sculptures in Skopje on 19 February 2019. Photo: AFP/Robert ATANASOVSKI

It’s a common myth that a super moon affects human psychology. Our vocabulary is littered with words like lunacy, lunatic, and loon, all derived from the Latin name for the Moon.

However, scientific studies disagree. There is no statistical or scientific evidence that the moon affects our behaviour, other than us being in awe of its beauty.