Super snow moon: Tonight, the lunar orb will present a rare visual treat for earth dwellers

If you miss the super snow moon tonight, you will have to wait for seven more years before the universe bestows another chance.

 |  4-minute read |   19-02-2019
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Full moon nights bring out the romantic even in the most cynical of our lot. Who does not want to gaze at the moon and be lost in the land of fantasies?

Do so tonight, and we promise you will thank us for informing you. It is a “super snow moon” that will light up tonight’s sky — perhaps the biggest and brightest we can see in the next seven years.

Tonight the full moon will be the closest to Earth — the closest it will be during its full phase until Christmas Eve of December 2026.

Supermoon — also called the perigean moon (a full moon near the perigee) — is when the moon gets the closest to Earth in its elliptical orbit. Perigree is the point in the orbit of the satellite at which it is nearest to the Earth.

main_super-snow-moon_021919052906.jpgSupermoons can appear 30 per cent brighter and up to 14 per cent larger than typical full moons. (Representational photo: Reuters)

According to news reports, NASA says that supermoons can become up to 14 per cent bigger and 30 per cent brighter than the normal full moon. That makes the supermoon tonight even more special because tonight, the moon “will appear up to 16 per cent brighter than the average value,” says Tom Kerss, the astronomer at Royal Observatory Greenwich.

According to astrophotographer Ajay Talwar, the moon tonight is 2019’s second and biggest of three consecutive supermoons — the first supermoon was on January 21, coinciding with the lunar eclipse creating a Super Blood Wolf Moon — and the third one will be on March 21.

main_super-blood-wol_021919053934.jpgThe moon is seen beside a quadriga on the top of the Cinquantenaire arch in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo: Reuters)

Tonight, however, the moon reaches its exact full phase closer to the time of perigee than any other full moon this year. This month’s perigree is the closest of this year’s 13 perigrees. The average angular diameter of the moon — the angle covered by the satellite as viewed from the Earth’s surface — is 31 arc minutes. “On Tuesday, the angular diameter will be 33.47 arc minutes, very close to the maximum observed angle of 33.5,” Talwar reportedly said.

Why the term “snow” in the “super snow moon”, you ask? This is because February’s full moon is traditionally known as a “snow moon” or “hunger moon” because this month often sees the heaviest snowfalls in the Occident and for them, it is the end of winter when food itself is scarce.

Tonight, India is likely to get a good view of the super snow moon.

The moon will rise around 5.20 p.m. in Kolkata, 6 p.m. in Delhi, 6:05 p.m. in Chennai, and 6.30 p.m. in Mumbai. The full moon moment — when the moon lies exactly 180 degrees opposite the sun and reflects the light to the maximum — will occur at 9.23 p.m. Do pray the clouds to pave way for the sighting. 

So hold your breath, bring out those warm wraps, head to the terrace, and prepare for a romantic night. Be prepared to go crazy in love — after all, it is for a good reason that lunatic and lunacy derive their roots from the Latin word "lunaticus" which means "of the moon". 

If not tonight, you will have to itch for another seven years.

Also read: Astro Calendar 2019: The new year promises several spectacles for the starry-eyed!

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