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February’s full moon is the only micromoon all year

February’s full moon is the only micromoon all year
Posted at 8:35 AM, Feb 23, 2024

February’s full moon officially arrives in the morning hours on Saturday, Feb. 24, but that’s not the only time you should watch the skies this weekend.

The February full moon, also known as the Snow Moon, reaches peak illumination at 7:30 a.m. EST, only eight minutes before dipping below the horizon. However, the Snow Moon will appear full all weekend long, from tonight through Sunday evening.

This full moon is also a special one because it’s the only micromoon of the year.

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What Is a Micromoon?

A micromoon occurs when the full moon is at its farthest point from Earth, or apogee. It’s basically the opposite of a supermoon.

This point is about 253,000 miles from the Earth. While “micromoon,” like “supermoon,” isn’t an official astronomical term so there are no official rules regarding its meaning, many people use it to refer to a moon that’s more than 250,000 miles away. February’s full micromoon will be about 252,225 miles away.

By comparison, a supermoon occurs when the moon is closer than about 226,000 miles away.

These varying distances all occur because the moon’s orbit around the Earth is an elliptical path. The distance between the moon and the Earth varies from day to day and month to month, but on average, the moon is about 238,900 miles from Earth.

Even though the distances are tens of thousands of miles apart, it’s difficult to see a difference with the naked eye.

A micromoon is about 6% smaller than the average full moon and about 13% smaller than a supermoon.

MORE: The best telescopes for home use, according to star-gazing experts

Full moon in clear dark sky

Why Is the February Full Moon Called the Snow Moon?

Every full moon has a unique name, and the most common name for February’s full moon is the Snow Moon.

These full moon names originate from Native American, Colonial American and other sources, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Every full moon name typically relates to animals, the weather, something happening in nature, or human activity during that month of the year.

February’s name is relatively straightforward. For most of the United States, more snow traditionally falls in the month of February than during any other time of year.

Some Native American tribes referred to the February full moon by the animals they began to see this time of year. These names included: Eagle Moon, Bear Moon, Raccoon Moon, Goose Moon and even Groundhog Moon.

Other Native American tribes called this month’s full moon the Hungry Moon because food was harder to find during the late months of winter.

Full moon over mountain

Next Month’s Full Moon Is a Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

The March full moon will arrive on March 25, about a month after February’s full moon.

This full moon takes place about two weeks before the total solar eclipse crossing most of the United States, which means watchers will be treated to a penumbral lunar eclipse.

While this isn’t a total eclipse by any stretch, a penumbral lunar eclipse happens when the moon passes through the outer edges of Earth’s shadow.

The change to the moon is subtle during this type of eclipse, so only especially observant moon watchers will notice any change.

Jason Meyers is a meteorologist and nature enthusiast who has made a number of entertaining and educational YouTube videos.

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