Even if you're not usually an astronomy enthusiast, remembering to take a few seconds to look up at the night sky this week will definitely pay off — because the February full moon, known as the Snow Moon, is coming. So when is the Snow Moon in 2017, exactly? You've only got a few days left to prepare for its arrival, so you'd best get your stargazing plans in place.
In order to see the Snow Moon, you'll need to turn your eyes skyward on the evening of Friday, Feb. 10. That's pretty darn soon, so make sure you put that reminder in your phone or mark it down your calendar; you won't want to miss this. On that day (or night, more accurately), the eye-catching moon will rise at 5.33pm EST and will peak at 7:33 p.m EST, which is a pretty convenient time for most of us. (For those of you on the other side of the globe, the peak will occur at 0:33 GMT Saturday morning).
If you're wondering whether the Snow Moon is any different from a regular old full moon, the answer is usually no; the Snow Moon is just the name given to the February full moon. (One full moon typically occurs every month, with the exception being months during which a Blue Moon occurs.) The origins of the name, however — and the origins of all the full moon names, for that matter — can be traced back a substantial way through history.
According to the Telegraph, each moon in North America takes its name from seasonal patterns occurring that month; Native American tribes marked the changes in whether and kept track of time by naming the moon each month. Historically, February has always been the snowiest month in the United States, hence February's full moon being named the Snow Moon — but it is also referred to as the Hunger Moon, stemming from the fact that the harsh weather conditions often made hunting at this time difficult.
What does set this Snow Moon apart, however, is the fact that it will occur at the same time as a Comet 45P flyby and a penumbral lunar eclipse. What are these, you might wonder? A penumbral lunar eclipse happens when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are in almost a perfectly straight line, causing the Earth to block out a little sunlight from hitting the Moon's surface, thereby casting some of the Moon in shadow. As for the comet, it's actually been visible for the past few months; we can see it from Earth every 5.25 years or so. However, it's going to come super close to Earth on Feb. 10, when all the other sky-action is taking place, before reaching its closest point on Feb. 11; on Saturday, it will be just 7.4 million miles away from the Earth.
If you're pressed for time, think of Feb. 10 as a three-for-one deal: You're getting a spectacular sky show like no other, so don't forget to take a look outside.