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Winter skies are wonderful. On Wednesday, I decided to head outside just after 6 p.m. to see if I could spot the International Space Station. I went out a few minutes early to let my eyes adapt to the light. I was looking up and was amazed at how many stars I could see, right here in the city. Despite the light pollution, the air was clear and the stars twinkled brightly.
Tonight is going to be a good night for backyard astronomers. We’re just hours away from a lovely full moon. According to Northeastern Native American tribes, the second full moon of winter is known as the Snow Moon because of February’s traditional heavy snow.
Weather permitting, you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck tonight. The Full Snow Moon rises in the east just as the sun sets and will reach peak fullness at 3:34 a.m. AST (4:04 a.m. NST) Sunday.
There’s no need to stay up all night. One of the best times to view the moon is when it is close to the horizon. An optical illusion makes it appear even bigger due to its relative size compared to buildings, trees and statues in the distance.
Speaking of looking big, tonight’s Snow Moon marks the first supermoon of 2020. What does that mean?
The term “supermoon” was first coined by astrologer Richard Nolle to describe the full or new moon when it’s less than 359,000 km from Earth. That’s about six per cent closer than the average Earth-to-moon distance. Despite being closer than usual, supermoons are rather ordinary and by Nolle’s definition, take place several times a year.
Despite all the hype, the difference in the size of the lunar disk from “average” full moons will be so negligible that most moon gazers will not notice anything amiss. Still, there is nothing quite as magical as watching that giant silvery orb rising in the east after sunset.
As you gaze up at tonight’s full moon, here are a few things to think about:
- when you watch the moon move from east to west, it travels its own diameter in about three minutes;
- the speed at which we see it move is mostly due to the Earth’s movement, not the moon’s. The Earth’s movement accounts for 95 per cent of the shifting position of the moon. The other five per cent is the moon itself moving;
- a full moon is considered unlucky if it occurs on a Sunday but lucky on Monday (Moon-day!) at least according to Grandma!
- Want more weather information? Visit your weather page.
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Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network