Full Snow Moon Blazes Tonight On A Horizon Near You

The full moon shortly after moonrise shows a striking orange color. The thick, dusty atmosphere we peer through when looking at lower levels of the sky scatter away blue and green light, leaving the moon orange or red. Photo: Bob King

Don’t forget. Tonight’s the Full Snow Moon with moonrise happening around the time of sunset. To find when the moon comes up for your town, go to Complete Sun and Moon Data for One Day and make your selection. For much of the U.S., moonrise will occur shortly after sunset in a bright twilight sky. Bring your cellphone along and snap a few photos that include the moon in a pretty landscape. It’s not hard to do if you catch the moon early before the sky gets dark.

A colorful bullseye corona rings the waxing gibbous moon this past Friday night Feb. 23. Click image to learn how coronas form. Photo: Bob King

The direction of moonrise depends on your latitude, but for much of the U.S. tonight’s snow moon will first appear at the horizon only a little north (left) of the due east point. One of my favorite full moon activities is guessing where it’ll come up. Since I don’t check in advance, sometimes I’m totally wrong. Somehow that makes it even more fun. Either way, there’s nothing like seeing that first blush of orange in the east alerting you to an impending moonrise.

The atmosphere bends each color of white light differently, something that becomes very obvious on a bright object seen near the horizon. Blue is bent the most and tints the moon’s upper rim in the left photo; red the least and colors the bottom rim. When the moon is higher up (right) and viewed through thinner air, the colors merge and disappear. Photo: Bob King

Bring binoculars along, too. That way you can watch the crazy distortions to the lunar disk when it’s lowest in the sky and shining through the thickest air. Sometimes you’ll see its edges ripple or its bottom pinched off. Keep an eye out for a phenomenon called dispersion. This is where the atmosphere acts like a prism and spreads the moon’s light out just enough to fringe its top edge blue-green and its bottom red.

The closer you look at a moonrise, the more amazing things you’ll see.

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