February full moon – smallest of 2023 – on the 5th

Steep green ecliptic line with February full moon, Regulus, sickle-shaped arrangement of 6 stars.
The February full moon rises at sunset on February 5, 2023. Regulus, the brightest star in Leo the Lion, is near the moon all night. Regulus marks the period at the bottom of the distinctive backward question mark pattern known as the Sickle. However, the Sickle might be difficult to see in the bright moonlight. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

When and where to look in 2023: Look for the bright, round full moon ascending in the east shortly after sunset, as twilight darkens on February 5. It glows high in the south near midnight and drops low in the west shortly before sunrise on February 6.
Crest of the full moon falls at 18:28 UTC on February 5 (12:28 p.m. CST), which is about 5 hours before moonrise in central North America.
It’s the smallest full moon of 2023 That’s because this full moon is in a far part of its orbit. A careful comparison with photos of other full moons would show that this full moon appears smaller-than-average in our sky. Will it look smaller to you in the sky? Probably not. But its brightness will be diminished, in contrast to other full moons.
It’s also the Snow Moon: All full moons have popular nicknames. The bright, full moon in February is commonly called either the Snow Moon or the Hunger Moon.

Diagram with moon, Earth, and sun lined up, and the Earth's and moon's orbits.
At full moon, the sun, Earth and moon align in space, in that order, with Earth in the middle. The moon’s day side – its fully lighted hemisphere – directly faces us.

Now on sale! The 2023 EarthSky lunar calendar. A unique and beautiful poster-sized calendar showing phases of the moon every night of the year. Treat yourself!

February’s full moon is the smallest of 2023

Some moons are supermoons. That is, they’re both full and in a close part of their orbits to Earth.

But the February 2023 full moon is a micromoon. It’s particularly far from Earth. The moon’s farthest point, or apogee, was reached at 9 UTC on February 4.

And the February 2023 micromoon is the second of two micromoons in 2023. The January 2023 full moon was a micromoon, too. But the February full moon is 2023’s farthest – and last – micromoon of this year. Its distance will be 252,171 miles (405,830 km). Compare that to the average distance between Earth and the moon, 237,700 miles (382,500 km).

A micromoon can appear up to 14% smaller than a supermoon, and its smaller size can be seen in comparison photos … but it’s tough to see with the eye. Still, this full moon is less bright than a supermoon, or a full moon at an average distance. But “less bright” doesn’t mean dim! This February 2023 full moon will appear to shine brightly, as all full moons do. And it might appear especially bright to you if you live in a place where it’s winter, where the leaves are off the deciduous trees now. Does snow cover the ground where you are? If so, the moon will look brighter still.

The composite image below shows the difference in size between a supermoon and a micromoon.

Collage of full moons. Center has smallest and largest moon comparing size surrounded by full moons.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Niveth Kumar created this cool composite image and wrote: “The moon orbits Earth on an elliptical path. As a result, the distance between the moon and Earth varies throughout the month and the year. The point on the moon’s orbit closest to Earth is called the perigee (supermoon) and the point farthest away is the apogee (micromoon). Here’s a comparison of the size of our moon’s closest and farthest throughout the year, represented along the 12 full moons of 2022.” By the way, a version of Niveth’s image was published as the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) for January 6, 2023. Thank you, and congratulations, Niveth!

February full moon in Leo

The February full moon can lie in front of one of two constellations of the zodiac and one non-zodiac constellation. Most years – as this year – it falls in Leo the Lion. But it can also lie in Cancer the Crab, as it will in 2026. Infrequently, it is in Sextans the Sextant, an obscure constellation immediately south of Leo.

And even more infrequently, a full moon doesn’t occur at all in February. That happened last in 2018. It won’t happen again until 2037.

The moon is roundest on the day it reaches the crest of its full phase. But, on the days before and after, it also appears nearly full.

The star near this full moon is Regulus

On the night of February 5, 2023, the moon shines near the brightest star in Leo. This star is called Regulus, which means little king. Everyone on Earth will see Regulus in the moon’s vicinity on this night. To see a precise view from your location, try Stellarium.

Regulus might appear dim in the glare of the brightly lit moon. For an easier view, block the moon with your hand. Or place yourself so that a distant landscape object such as a tree branch or a utility pole blocks the moon. Then the star pops into better view!

February full moon and the August sun

Since the full moon is opposite the sun in the sky, the February full moon lies about where the sun lies six months from now. In fact, the blindingly bright sun moves immediately below Regulus – in an event called a conjunction – in the August 23 daytime sky.

Two diagrams showing moon and sun alignment with Regulus, with orbits and arrows pointing toward Regulus.
The February full moon lies near Regulus in the sky, just as does the sun in the daytime sky on August 23. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

Bottom line: The full Snow Moon happens overnight on February 5, 2023. It’s the smallest full moon of 2023 and lies near the bright star Regulus in Leo.

Read more: What is a supermoon? And when, in 2023?

February 5, 2023

Like what you read?
Subscribe and receive daily news delivered to your inbox.

Your email address will only be used for EarthSky content. Privacy Policy
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

More from 

John Jardine Goss

View All