Full Snow Moon: First ‘supermoon’ of the decade will rise this weekend

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A Full ‘Snow’ Moon will illuminate the sky on Sunday – 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 in the evening.

The exact moment of ‘fullness’, when the Moon is directly opposite the Sun is at 07:33 on Sunday, 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. 

A supermoon occurs when the full moon nearly coincides with perigee – the point in the orbit of the moon at which it is nearest to the Earth.

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.

But commentators disagree on whether it should be described as 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 claim 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 sight for those lucky enough to catch a glimpse through the clouds.

If possible, the best time to view the full moon is when it is close to the horizon, due to an optical illusion that makes it appear bigger due to its relative size compared to buildings, trees and other objects in the foreground. 

Astronomers advise photographers to download apps and maps to track the progress of the moon across the sky, in order to make sightings easier.

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.

‘Near Earth Object’ 2020 BK10 will make its closest approach to Earth at around 20:00 EST on Sunday evening (01:00 GMT Monday morning), with 1 hour, 15 minutes uncertainty.

The space rock is between 50 and 112 feet in diameter, and will pass the Earth at 1.9 times the distance of the moon, travelling at 25,600 miles per hour.

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