Will Snow Be a Damper on the Super Snow Moon?

A super moon sighting by the Colorado State Capitol in 2015.
A super moon sighting by the Colorado State Capitol in 2015.
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Just over a year ago, Coloradans got up early for a once-in-a-lifetime-(and-a-half) experience: the super (duper)  blood blue moon. Last month, they stayed up late for a rare lunar eclipse.

And now, just when everybody's back on their sleep cycle, it's time to welcome the super snow moon. Today, February 19, the moon will be at its perigree, its closest approach to Earth, just six hours before it's 100 percent illuminated by the sun, creating a perfect full moon. A perfect snow moon, as February's full moon is called. The moon won't be this big and bright again for another seven years, until 2026.

At its closest, the moon will be 221,681 miles from Earth. But that's only 7.2 percent closer than the moon's average distance from our planet, note the killjoys at space.com, "so the moon will look pretty much like any other full moon."

Not according to Andrew Caldwell, an astronomy instructor at Front Range Community College, who notes that "it will be hard to miss the supermoon," especially if you happen to visit the Sunlight Peak Observatory in Fort Collins, which will be open from 8 to 10 p.m. today, weather permitting. Too much snow, and no one will be able to see the snow moon.

"To be honest, the full moon is not the best time to view the moon through a telescope," Caldwell admits. "Every feature is washed out and two-dimensional. It's much more interesting when one can see the shadows on the moon, which give it a much more 3-D appearance."

You can put a telescope to the test at the University of Denver's Chamberlin Observatory, too, since the super snow moon just happens to coincide with one of the observatory's public nights, a Denver tradition that began August 1, 1894, and that the Denver Astronomical Society continues to carry on. On these evenings, visitors can catch telescopic views of the moon, stars and more through Chamberlin’s historic, 28-foot long, 20-inch-aperture Alvan Clark-Saegmuller refracting telescope.

"Although there is little difference between the so-called supermoon and most other full moons, it will be visible — clouds permitting — all night Tuesday," says DU astronomy professor Robert Stencel. "The moon is one of the few celestial objects — along with the sun — that hasn't quite been drowned out by rampant and excessive light pollution due to the conversion to bluer LED lamps."

The public night starts at 7:30 p.m. February 19 at Chamberlin; see the schedule at twitter.com/chamberlin_obs.


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