February full moon – Snow Moon – near Regulus February 16
February full moon, or Snow Moon
The moon reaches the crest of its full phase every 29.5 days. So nearly every month has a full moon (although sometimes February lacks one, as it did in 2018). The moon is full on February 16, 2022, at 16:56 UTC (11:56 a.m. EST). Full moon is a whole-Earth event. So that clock time is when the moon will be 100% lit, not when you can expect to see the full moon.
For all of us, the full moon – opposite the sun – will rise in the east around sunset and blaze in the sky all night long.
Every full moon has names in western skylore. The bright, full moon of February goes by the names Snow Moon or Hunger Moon. February is typically the snowiest month in northern North America. And so some Native Americans found it to be the most difficult month in which to hunt, prompting the name Hunger Moon.
Bright star near February full moon
In fact, the February full moon is always somewhere in the vicinity of this star. On this February 2022 night (or the night or two around now), depending on where you are on Earth, you might see the moon to the north, west, south or east of Regulus. This year, Western Hemisphere observers see Regulus shining immediately to the right of the moon as it rises in the darkening eastern sky at sunset. As midnight approaches, the moon and Regulus will have risen very high in the south. By then, they will have rotated their positions so that the star lies just to the lower right of the silvery orb. As the moon drops to the western horizon one hour before sunrise, Regulus will be below the moon. The star sets 30 minutes before the moon for us in North America.
Because of the substantial amount of glare created by the brightly lit moon, it might be hard to spot Regulus. For an easier view, block the moon with your hand or place yourself so that a distant foreground object such as a thick tree branch blocks the moon. The star pops into view!
What is syzygy?
By the way, in order to appear full to us, the moon has to lie opposite the sun in the sky. So, as the sun sets in the west, the full moon rises in the east. Every full moon rises around sunset, climbs highest in the sky around midnight and sets around sunrise. This direct sun–Earth–moon alignment has a special name used by astronomers. The alignment is called syzygy. Because the full moon is opposite the sun, the February full moon lies about where the sun sits six months from now. In fact, the blindingly bright sun moves immediately below Regulus in the sky every August 23.
Bottom line: February’s full moon – the Snow Moon or Hunger Moon – rises in the east on February 16 in the constellation Leo, not far from the bright star Regulus.