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The Snow Moon will peak all over the world on Wednesday

The Snow Moon is the second full moon of the year. It will light up the nocturnal skies around the world for three days, from Tuesday, February 15 to Thursday, February 17, reaching its peak on Wednesday night. During the same night, Mercury will be located at the greatest distance west of the Sun, making it a bright yet challenging to observe “morning star” in mid-northern latitudes.

According to the Maine Farmers’ Almanac, the native tribes of what is now the northeastern United States called this the Snow Moon (or the Storm Moon) because it was often accompanied by heavy snowfall. Moreover, since bad weather and snowstorms often made hunting difficult, this moon was also referred to as the Hunger Moon.  

In other parts of the world, the February full moon has different names, and is associated with various local religious and secular traditions. In the Purnimanta Hindu tradition, for instance, dating back to the Vedic era (1500 to 500 BCE), which ends each month on the full moon day, this full moon (“Purnima” in Hindi) is called Magha Purnima, since it occurs on the last day of the month of Magha, which is associated with austerity, performing acts of charity, and bathing in a sacred river.

For Buddhists, this moon corresponds with Māgha Pūjā, the second-most important festival of the year, celebrating the historical gathering of the Buddha with 1,250 of his first disciples. It is celebrated on the full moon day of the third lunar month in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. On this day, Buddhists celebrate the creation of an ideal and exemplary community through large, crowded celebrations, such as the Gangaramaya Navam, a procession of over 5,000 people and many elephants in Sri Lanka.

Although the Snow Moon will peak on Wednesday night, it will be almost as bright on Tuesday and Thursday too, offering additional chances to enjoy it. 

“Seeing the Moon yourself shouldn’t be too difficult, as long as clouds aren’t in the way,” said Dr. Greg Brown, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich.  “It will be easily the brightest object in the night sky and fully visible to the unaided eye; however, a pair of binoculars or a small telescope will enable you to see some of the smaller features on its surface.”

Although this year’s Snow Moon will not be as bright as the 2020 one – which was considered to be a “supermoon” that appeared significantly larger and brighter than normal due to the fact that its peak almost coincided with its perigee (the point in the orbit of the moon at which it is nearest to the Earth) – it will nevertheless offer viewers all around the world a dazzling visual spectacle.   

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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