What is 'Snow Moon'? Here's how you can see February's full moon that draws its name from the heavy snowfall

On average, February is the snowiest month in the US, according to data from the National Weather Service


                            What is 'Snow Moon'? Here's how you can see February's full moon that draws its name from the heavy snowfall
Depending on where you live worldwide, the moon turns full on February 26 or 27 (Getty Images)

This week, February’s full moon will shine bright in the night sky, marking the last full moon of the winter season. Called the “Snow Moon”, the full moon will be early on Saturday morning, February 27, appearing opposite the Sun in Earth-based longitude at 3:17 AM Eastern Standard Time (EST). According to NASA, the Moon will appear full for about three days around this time, from Thursday night (February 25) through Sunday morning (February 28). 

“Depending on where you live worldwide – that is, on your time zone – the Moon turns full on February 26 or 27. From around the world on both nights, the Moon will appear full to the eye as it arcs across the sky from dusk until dawn. To the eye, the moon can look full for a few nights in succession. To astronomers, though, the full moon occurs in a single instant, when the moon is 180 degrees opposite the Sun in ecliptic longitude,” says Earthsky.org.

It adds, “This full moon instant occurs on February 27, at 8.17 UTC. For people in the US, that’s February 27 at 3.17 am EST, 2.17 am Central Standard Time (CST), 1.17 am Mountain Standard Time (MST), at 12.17 am Pacific Standard Time (PST) and on February 26, at 11.17 pm Alaskan Time and 10.17 pm Hawaiian Time.” 

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The Moon travels a distance of 382,400 kilometers as it orbits the Earth. “From Earth, it looks like the moon goes through different lit-up phases. If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, the moon’s right side grows with light from a crescent to a semicircle and then a gibbous (more than a semicircle but less than a full circle) shape until finally, it becomes a glorious full moon.

This process is called "waxing" and takes about a fortnight. And then the opposite happens on the left side as the portion lit up shrinks to nothing, known as a "new moon". This process is called "waning", explain scientists.

To astronomers, the full moon occurs in a single instant, when the moon is 180 degrees opposite the Sun in ecliptic longitude (Getty Images)

Where did it get its name?

The Maine Farmer’s Almanac started publishing moon names for each month of the year in the 1930s. These names have become popular. According to this almanac, the tribes of what is now the northeastern US referred to the February full moon as the Snow Moon or the “Storm Moon” because of the heavy snow that falls in this season. Bad weather and heavy snowstorms made hunting difficult, so this moon was also called the “Hunger Moon”. 

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the full moon names used by it come from several places, including Native American, Colonial American, European sources, or other traditional North American sources passed down through generations. 

February moon names (The Old Farmer’s Almanac)

“Traditionally, each full moon name was applied to the entire lunar month in which it occurred, not just to the full moon itself. The explanation behind February’s full moon name is a fairly straightforward one: it’s known as the Snow Moon due to the typically heavy snowfall that occurs in February. On average, February is the US’ snowiest month, according to data from the National Weather Service,” say experts.

They add, “In the 1760s, Captain Jonathan Carver, who had visited with the Naudowessie (Dakota), wrote that the name used for this period was the Snow Moon, ‘because more snow commonly falls during this month than any other in the winter’.”

Another theme of this month’s moon names has a connection with animals. “The Cree traditionally called this the Bald Eagle Moon or Eagle Moon. The Ojibwe Bear Moon and Tlingit Black Bear Moon refer to the time when bear cubs are born. The Dakota also call this the Raccoon Moon, certain Algonquin peoples named it the Groundhog Moon, and the Haida named it Goose Moon,” writes The Old Farmer’s Almanac.op

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