What is a snow moon and when can I see it?

Snow Moon Credit: David Bradley, Cambridgeshire

Clear skies on Sunday night meant that budding astronomers were able to see the spectacular 'snow moon' across much of the UK. Although the full moon "technically" occurred last night, at 6.28pm to be precise, it'll still appear full until Wednesday morning.

Why do we name full moons?

All full moons are given names, which are often linked to the time of year they occur. The names were given by Native Americans in North America in a bid to track the seasons.

There are some variations in the list, depending on where you look, as different tribes and settlers around the world created their own. However, the most common is the Farmers Almanac list, which we have adopted in the UK.

Full moons of 2023

6th January - Wolf Moon5th February - Snow Moon7th March - Worm Moon6th April - Pink Moon5th May - Flower Moon3rd June - Strawberry Moon3rd July - Buck Moon1st August - Sturgeon Moon30th August - Blue Moon*29th September - Harvest Moon28th October - Hunter's Moon27th November - Beaver Moon26th December - Cold Moon

*a blue moon is where two full moons occur in the same month, in 2023 this will happen in August

Snow moon obscured by a cloud Credit: Val Rozier - Bedfield

Why is it called a snow moon?

The full moon that occurs in February is referred to as the snow moon because the heaviest snow fall in North America usually occurs during this month. Harsh weather conditions of freezing temperatures, strong winds and heavy snowfall made hunting in these areas very difficult. As a result, some colonies referred to this moon as the hunger moon.

February's snow moon will be the smallest of 2023

It may seem hard to believe but just like we get supermoons, we also get the opposite, called micromoons. The moon's orbit around Earth isn't a perfect circle, it's more of an oval - known as an "elliptical orbit". Therefore some months it's closest to the Earth (called perigee) and other months it's actually further away (known as apogee).

February's moon was furthest from Earth on 4th February at 9am, with a distance of 252,171 miles (405,830 km).

Both January and February's 2023 moons were a micromoon, but February's was the furthest away.

Unlike a supermoon, where the moon appears 30% brighter and 14% bigger, a micromoon appears 14% smaller and "less bright", although it's really difficult to the naked eye.

Snow moon with plane flying in front Credit: Paul Benson - Surrey

Can I still see this year's snow moon?

You still to have an opportunity to see this year's snow moon - it will appear full until the morning of the February 8 2023.

Fortunes are split weather-wise for astronomy enthusiasts, with the south experiencing clearer skies over the coming nights. Meanwhile, the northwest often stays cloudy, which will shroud the view.

But don't worry, if you miss it, the next full moon will be March 7, although that will be a worm moon, which is a whole other story...