February’s name is derived from Latin meaning purification. It was the last month of the year in the early Roman calendar. Because February is such a short month it is the only month that can go without a full moon, or a first quarter (half) moon.
This month’s full moon is commonly known as the Snow Moon. Other names include the Hunger Moon, Opening Buds Moon, Storm Moon, The Trapper’s Moon, and Snow Blinding Moon. The Lakota Sioux called it the Moon of the Dark Red Calves. February’s full moon was known as the Big hoop and Stick Game Moon by the Cheyenne. Technically the full moon is only a moment in time. That moment occurs at 1:27 PM MST on Feb 25 for Aurora, Colorado.
For most the Moon will look full on the evenings Feb 24, Feb 25, and Feb 26. So which date is closest to true full looking moon? There is an easy way for the casual observer to tell. A full moon always rises opposite the setting Sun. In general, the Moon that rises within a half hour of sunset is closest to the full moon. If the Moon is well above the horizon or has not risen until well after (greater than a half hour) sunset, it is not a full moon even though it looks like one. Let’s see what the data shows this month for Aurora, CO.
Sunday Feb. 24
Sunset: 5:45 PM MST
Moonrise: 5:00 PM MST
Difference: 45 minutes (Failed, Moon and Sun are not quite opposite)
Monday Feb. 25
Sunset: 5:46 PM MST
Moonrise: 6:03 PM MST
Difference: 17 minutes (Pass, Moon and Sun are opposite)
Tuesday Feb. 26
Sunset: 5:47 PM MST
Moonrise: 7:08 PM MST
Difference: 1 Hour 21 minutes (Failed, Moon and Sun are not opposite)
This test works pretty “most” every time for any full looking Moon. If the Moon looks full and opposite the Sun in the evening or morning it’s a full moon as this month’s data indicates. Take the time this month to see the difference.
A full moon is the only time the Moon is up all night and the only time a lunar eclipse can take place. A full moon also sets in the west opposite the rising Sun providing us living near the front-range really neat moonsets over the mountains, easily noticed by early morning west-bound commuters.
On February 26 look for the setting full moon over the mountain around 5:45 AM MST, a spectacular sight. Moonset occurs at 6:41 AM MST but with the mountains in the way the Moon will disappear earlier. Sunrise occurs at 6:37 AM MST in the east. If you have the time catch the sunrise, they are usually pretty good here in Colorado.
For some more interesting facts on this month’s full moon check out the video here on the Farmer’s Almanac site.
Wishing you clear skies