Super Snow Moon: How February's Event Earned the Name 'Hunger' and 'Storm'

The celestial event could be the biggest of the year.

This month’s full moon is set to be something spectacular. The February “full snow moon,” named after the high levels of snowfall during this period, is set to be the biggest and brightest moon of the year, one of three “supermoons” set to take place this year.

The “full snow moon” event will take place from Sunday night to Wednesday evening, set to reach its peak on February 19 at 10:54 a.m. Eastern time. Moonrise and moonset times will vary depending on location, but followers can use a tracking tool to measure the ideal times in their locality.

Less than two months into 2019, the moon has already delivered some impressive visual spectacles. The fantastically-titled “super blood wolf moon total lunar eclipse” last month resulted from a number of events aligning as one. This event coincided with a total lunar eclipse where the Earth moved between the moon and the sun, which also led to a blood moon as the sun’s light passed through air and particles before hitting the lunar surface. The resultant light, filtered so only long wavelengths make it through, gave the moon an eerie glow.

The blood moon led to some impressive photos, but February’s moon could beat it:

Full Snow Moon: Why Is It Called That?

This moon comes under a lot of names. Almanac notes that a lot of lunar names come from traditional European and North American people, with the “snow moon” coming from the fact that February is traditionally the United States’ most snow-filled month. However, NASA notes that, while the Maine Farmer’s Almanac first shared these traditional names back in the 1930s, it’s perhaps more likely that the names were associated with the seasons rather than the modern-era calendar months.

Other names for the moon include the “worm moon,” from southern United States tribes when the earthworm first came out of the ground, and the “Lenten moon,” a European name associated with the fact that the moon coincides with the Christian period of Lent. The moon was also called the “storm moon” and “hunger moon” due to the lack of food around these times of year.

Full Snow Moon: What Is a Supermoon?

February’s moon is a supermoon, and it’s expected to be bigger and brighter than the one in January and the one forecast for March.

The term was coined by astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979 to describe a new and full moon within 10 percent of perigee. This moon is 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than a micromoon, also known as a moon at apogee. The discrepancy comes from the fact that the moon does not orbit the Earth as a perfect circle. It’s normally around 250,000 miles away from the Earth, but can vary up to seven percent closer and six percent farther away depending on its position in the orbit.

This strange quirk of the moon’s orbit results in big and bright moons in certain months, making February’s demonstration a sight to behold.