When Is the Full Moon in February 2023? Snow Moon Meaning Explained

A full "snow" moon will soon grace the skies, but when is it set to appear and where does the name originate from?

Full moons are lunar phases that occur roughly once every month. At these moments, our natural satellite is located opposite the sun in space, with the Earth positioned directly in between. As a result, every full moon rises around the time of sunset and sets around the time of sunrise.

When the moon turns full, the side that faces toward us is completely illuminated by the sun's light, appearing like a perfect circle in the sky.

Technically, the moon only turns full at a specific moment in time. In the case of the upcoming snow moon—the second full moon of the year—it will reach peak illumination at around 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday, February 5.

At this point, it will be below the horizon in North America. But while the moon only turns full at a specific moment, it will appear full to most observers for about three days centered on this time. You can look out for our natural satellite on Saturday evening, for example, or later on Sunday, after sunset.

A full moon
Stock image: An image of the full moon in the night sky. At these moments, the side of the moon that faces towards us is completely illuminated by the sun's light. iStock

One of the best times to catch a glimpse of the full moon is around the time it either rises or sets, when it appears larger and may have an orange hue. This is due to a phenomenon known as the "moon illusion"—a perceptual trick of the mind.

The traditional names for the full moons in each month of the year come from a variety of places, including Native American, colonial and European sources.

The "Snow Moon" name originates from Native American peoples and refers to the large amount of snow that typically falls in many parts of what is now the U.S. in this month.

Captain Jonathan Carver, who had visited the Naudowessie people in the 1760s, wrote that they used this name because "more snow commonly falls during this month than any other in the winter," according to The Old Farmer's Almanac.

Native Americans also referred to the February full moon as the "storm moon" due to the harsh weather conditions often experienced during this month.

Alternative names for the February full moon include the hunger moon, the bony moon, and the little famine moon, which all refer to the fact that food would have been scarce at this time of year.

Early European colonists sometimes referred to the February full moon as the "trapper's moon" because the month was a good time for trapping animals such as beavers, foxes and mink.

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