The second supermoon of 2020 is set to appear tonight, following the one which lit up the sky on the morning of Sunday 9 February.
It has been nicknamed the “worm moon” and is one of several supermoons set to appear in the first half of 2020.
Here’s everything you need to know about the worm moon.
What is a supermoon?
The Moon’s orbit around the Earth isn’t a perfect circle but an oval which means that it actually moves closer and further away from us as it travels.
A supermoon occurs when the Moon reaches peak fullness while it is especially close to the Earth (a point which astronomers call the “perigree”), causing it to appear much larger and brighter. “Peak fullness” refers to the time at which the Moon is completely illuminated by the Sun.
The difference can be pretty significant, with the supermoon appearing up to 14% larger and 30% brighter than the full moon does when it is further away.
While the term “supermoon” was coined back in 1979, it has become more widely popularised in recent years.
Why is this one called the Worm Moon?
Our modern Moon-naming tradition has its roots in Native American culture.
Giving each full moon a distinctive name was a key way of keeping track of the seasons, essentially breaking the year down into months. The same practice has been employed by people around the world for thousands of years.
March’s full moon was known as the “Worm Moon” because this is the time of year when the soil would begin to thaw and earthworm casts would be visible on the ground again. This would then prompt birds to return to feed again, signalling the beginning of spring.
Other tribes knew it as the “Crow Moon”, taking the cawing of the crows as their symbol that winter had ended.
The Worm Moon is usually the last full moon before the winter equinox – marking the end of the cold, dark period of the year and the beginning of a new cycle in the natural world in cultures around the planet, it is associated with fertility and renewal.
It can also be known as the “Sap Moon” as March is the time when the sap of sugar maples starts to flow again, or the “Lenten Moon” which comes from the German word for spring and is where we get the name for the Christian festival, Lent from.
When will it be visible?
March’s full moon will reach peak fullness at 5.47pm on Monday 9 March, meaning that evening will be the best time to observe the Worm Moon.
Look for it in the east/north-east skies.
The March full moon will be the year’s second-closest full moon – it will be 222,081 miles from Earth, which is about 16,000 miles closer than usual, so it should make for spectacular viewing.
It is also the first of three consecutive full moon supermoons set to appear in 2020 – the next two will reach peak fullness on Wednesday 8 April and Thursday 7 May.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, The Scotsman.