How to see the full 'Snow Moon' and other celestial events this weekend
Anyone care for an early-morning moon watching?
February's full moon, also known as the full Snow Moon, will shine brightly this weekend, and you can catch it if you're in the mood for some early-morning skywatching.
The moon will be completely full at exactly 3:17 a.m. EST (2017 GMT) Saturday (Feb. 27). However, the moon will appear full from Thursday night (Feb. 25) until Sunday morning (Feb. 28), so there will be plenty of time to look up and see it, according to NASA.
Indigenous groups in the northern and eastern U.S. named February's moon the Snow Moon because of the heavy snowfall that typically occurs during this month, according to the Farmers' Almanac.
Moon names such as Snow Moon were applied to the whole lunar month and not just the full moon. Some tribes also referred to February's moon as the Hungry Moon, as the bad weather conditions made hunting for food more difficult than usual, according to the Farmers' Almanac.
Related: Top 5 mysteries of the moon
A full moon occurs when the moon's orbit brings it 180 degrees away from the sun and the side that is visible to Earth gets a full blast of sunlight, according to Space.com, a sister site of Live Science.
Sunlight reflects off the moon's surface, which means a full moon can appear very bright, particularly when it's high in the sky on clear winter nights, according to Space.com. Therefore, it's a good idea to use a moon filter if you want to look comfortably at a full moon through a telescope. This filter will reduce the glare and allow you to see the moon's features — including its impact craters, dead volcanoes and lava flows — in more detail.
Determined early-morning sky-gazers will also have the opportunity to identify three planets if they have a clear view of the east-southeast horizon, according to NASA, which gave a summary of celestial events from the perspective of its Washington, D.C., headquarters.
Mercury will appear at about 2 degrees above the east-southeast horizon as morning twilight begins at 5:45 a.m. EST (1045 GMT). Saturn will also be visible, though fainter, at about 5 degrees to the right of Mercury and about 4 degrees above the same horizon. Meanwhile, Jupiter will steal the show because it will be brighter than both Mercury and Saturn when it rises to the lower left of Mercury at 5:49 a.m. EST (1049 GMT), 4 minutes after Mercury and Saturn become visible, according to NASA.
If you experience cloudy weather or other obstacles to viewing the celestial show Saturday, you can catch a virtual streaming of the Snow Moon rising over Rome broadcast by The Virtual Telescope Project.
Originally published on Live Science.
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Patrick Pester is a freelance writer and previously a staff writer at Live Science. His background is in wildlife conservation and he has worked with endangered species around the world. Patrick holds a master's degree in international journalism from Cardiff University in the U.K.