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The mostly dreary weather of late has been a damper for sky-watching enthusiasts, but with any luck February will bring clearer skies.
The full moon for the month will be February 9. The precise moment it will reach its full point is 1:33 a.m. February's full moon is called the snow moon, because it's the snowiest month in the United States, according to Mother Nature Network. After reaching full status, the moon will wane until February 23, which is the night of the new moon.
Some astronomers and sky watchers consider this month's full moon to be the first of four consecutive supermoons through May, but others say February's full moon is not a supermoon. Why the indecisiveness? Because not everyone is in agreement about what exactly constitutes a supermoon, according to EarthSky.
Supermoons get their superlative name because the these full moons are brighter and larger than others we see in the night sky, according to NASA. We see these moons as larger and brighter because the moon is full at the same time its orbit reaches its closest point to Earth, called the perigee.
The concept of a supermoon is not an official astronomical term, so there is no exact definition, NASA reports. It's generally accepted that supermoons occur when full moons happen when the moon is within 90% of the closest possible approach to Earth.
Because it travels in an elliptical orbit, the moon is not always the same distance from Earth. It averages about 238,855 miles away, but it's 252,088 miles away at its farthest point, the apogee, and 225,623 miles away at its closest point, the perigee.
This year is also a great time of year to see the celestial phenomenon known as zodiacal light just after the sun sets. This occurs when a cone of light shines up from the horizon, creating an eerie glow, according to EarthSky.
Zodiacal light can happen at both dusk and dawn. At dusk, it's called false dusk, and it's most common in late winter and early spring. At dawn, it's referred to as false dawn, and it's most often seen in late summer or early fall.
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