Super snow moon: Why is it the biggest and brightest full moon of the year

You are not hallucinating: yes, the moon looks brighter than normal, and yes, it also looks bigger.

But on Tuesday night, we'll see the real show: what NASA's astronomers call a "perigean" or "super-moon" moon. The event will coincide with a full moon, often called "snow moon" or "hungry moon".

This is not an unusual event in the context of our human existence on Earth: 12 to 14 full moons occur each year, and about a quarter of them are larger and brighter than normal, hence the term "super-moon".

But that does not make the Full Moon less fantastic to watch on a winter night, especially before the 50th anniversary of humanity's landing on humanity, NASA scientist Mitzi Adams said in a statement. recent article on his blog.

"As NASA and its international and commercial partners plan to return to the moon over the next ten years with a continued long-term presence, the list of Moon Walkers will certainly include women," Adams said.

Why will the "snow super moon" be so big and so bright?

It is almost impossible to compare the apparent size of the super-moon to that of a micromoon, but seen side by side as in this graph, it becomes clear.
NASA / JPL-Caltech

The full moon of February is sometimes referred to by its Native American or traditional name, "lunar moon". This is because it is winter in the northern hemisphere, when snow often covers the ground.

In February, the snow moon is also a super moon.

A supermoon (a term that some astronomers do not like) occurs because the distance from the moon to the Earth varies during its orbit around our planet. This orbit is not perfectly circular – it has a slightly elliptical or oval shape – which leads to variation.

On average, the moon is 238,856 miles from the Earth. But it can approach about 221,500 miles and up to 252,700 miles. This is a minimum-maximum difference of 31,200 miles. (These distances are calculated on the basis of laser measurements that use reflectors left on the moon's surface by Apollo astronauts.)

Supermons occur when the full moon is near or at the point where the orbit of the moon is closest to the Earth, also called the perigee of its orbit. For this reason, supermoons are also known as perigee or perigee moons, although the full technical term is "perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system".

Compared to the full moon at the apogee – its farthest point in orbit around the Earth, when "micromoons" occur, a super moon appears about 14% larger and 30% brighter.

Gianluca Masi, an astronomer of the virtual telescope project, told Business Insider that this month's super-moon "will look about 7% bigger and a bit brighter" than an average moon.

"These variations are not really obvious, but they add charm to the event, a precious opportunity to admire our natural satellite in the context of the night sky, a landscape increasingly neglected and forgotten", said Masi, who hosts live live broadcasts of the big moon written in an email.

There is no universally accepted definition of the supermoon. However, a common description is a full moon that occurs at about 90% of the perigee, or about 223,000 miles from the Earth.

Read more: There is a "dark side" of the moon, but you probably use the term incorrectly

The February "snow super-moon" will take place six hours after a distance of 221,681 km (221,681 km), according to NASA. This would make it not only the second of three supermons in a row, but also the largest and brightest full moon of the year. (The closer the moon is to the Earth, the bigger it will look and the more it will reflect the sunlight.)

That's because this distance is 362 miles closer than the super-moon we saw on January 21, according to Adams. It will also be about 1627 km closer than the next supermoon on March 19th.

The last time the Earth saw three supermoons for three full moons in a row, it was early 2018.

Kevin Loria contributed to the story of a previous version of this article.

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