February full moon 2024: The Snow Moon rises as a 'minimoon' on Feb. 24

a bright full moon above a snowy mountain range
The Full Snow Moon rises behind the Corno Grande and Pizzo Cefalone peaks in L'Aquila, Abruzzo (Italy), on Feb. 5, 2023. (Image credit: Lorenzo Di Cola/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The full moon of February, called the Snow Moon, will occur in the eastern U.S. during the morning of Feb. 24, about a day before reaching apogee, the farthest point from Earth in its orbit – creating a "minimoon," a full moon that is slightly smaller than average. 

The full moon happens when the moon is exactly on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun. Most of the time the moon is illuminated by the sun's light. Once in a while, the moon's orbit carries it within the shadow of Earth. February's full moon will miss the Earth's shadow, because the moon's orbit is tilted by five degrees to the plane of the Earth's orbit, and therefore Earth won't be directly between the sun and the moon. 

While this full moon might be classed as a "minimoon" that isn't a recognized astronomical term; it just describes the fact that the moon looks a bit smaller. The size difference isn't enough for any but the most conscientious observers to notice; the size difference is around 10%. Minimoons, and their counterparts, the supermoons, occur because the orbit of the moon isn't perfectly circular. At its nearest, the moon is 360,000 kilometers (224,000 miles) from Earth, and at the farthest it is 405,00 kilometers (251,655 miles) from our planet.  

Related: Full moon names for 2024 (and how they came to be)


A Celestron telescope on a white background

(Image credit: Celestron)

Looking for a telescope to see the features of the full moon up close? We recommend the Celestron Astro Fi 102 as the top pick in our best beginner's telescope guide. Don't forget a moon filter!

The moon becomes officially full for observers on the East Coast of the U.S. on Feb. 24 at 7:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (1230 UTC), according to the U.S. Naval Observatory. The moon sets that morning at 6:58 a.m. in New York City, so at the moment when it is officially full the moon will be below the horizon. Moonrise is at 5:55 p.m. The moon will be in the constellation Leo. Moonrise on Feb. 24 will be about 14 minutes after sunset (which happens at 5:41 p.m., per the USNO). 

Timing of lunar phases depends on one's time zone (because it depends on the moon's position relative to Earth, not one's position on the Earth's surface). So to catch the moment when it becomes full one must go westward; in Chicago the full moon is at 6:30 a.m. Central Time on Feb. 24 and the moon sets at 6:55 a.m. In San Francisco, the full moon will be at 4:30 a.m. and moonset is at 7:10 a.m. Going east, the just-full Moon will be below the horizon until one gets to the longitudes of western China or Bangladesh. In Dhaka, the moon rises at 5:54 p.m. local time and the moon reaches full phase at 6:15 p.m.

Through binoculars or a small telescope the full moon will appear so bright that it can be hard to spot detail. That is due to the lack of shadows to give any contrast; we are seeing the lunar surface at noontime on the moon. The Sun (from the perspective of a person standing on the moon) would be directly overhead. That said, moon filters are available that can make some features stand out better. If one waits a few days after the full moon or observes a few days before, shadows will appear that show the lunar topography and surface features better. 

Being in the constellation Leo, the Moon will be about 12 degrees north of the celestial equator; this puts it a bit higher in the sky for Northern Hemisphere sky watchers. In New York, for example, the moon will be at an altitude of about 63 degrees when it crosses the meridian on Feb. 24 at 12:01 a.m., and at 58 degrees when it does so the next night at 12:42 a.m. Hobart, Tasmania, is at 39 degrees south; about as far below the equator as New York City is above it (New York is at 40 degrees North), and there the Moon (which reaches full phase at 11:30 p.m. local time on Feb 24) will cross the meridian at 1:32 a.m. on Feb. 25 at an altitude of 34 degrees. 

The Moon will appear highest in the sky in locations at about 12 degrees North. For example in Willemstad, Curaçao, the nearly full moon will rise at 6:16 p.m. February 23; it will cross the meridian at 12:40 a.m. on Feb. 24 with an altitude of 87.5 degrees and set that morning at 7:02 a.m. (the moon reaches full phase there at 8:30 a.m., after it sets). 

An illustration of the Full Snow Moon as it will appear on Feb. 24, 2024. (Image credit: Chris Vaughan/Starry Night)

Visible planets 

By late February, at the latitude of New York City, the sky will be fully dark at about 7 p.m. The moon will be almost due east, about 11 degrees high. For almost the whole night Jupiter will be the lone visible planet; it becomes visible soon after sunset, and will appear about halfway between the zenith and the horizon in the southwest. The planet sets by about 11:05 p.m. in New York. 

Other planets won't be visible until just before sunrise; In New York Mars doesn't rise until 5:30 a.m. on Feb. 25; Venus rises only two minutes later. As sunrise is at 6:37 a.m. one can find them by using Venus as a guide, since it will just clear the horizon enough to see as the sky is getting light, and the planet should remain visible until about a half hour before sunrise; at that point Venus will be about 5 and a half degrees above the southeastern horizon. Mars will be just above and to the right of Venus. 

Mercury and Saturn are both too close to the sun to be seen against the glare. As one moves towards the equator Venus and Mars rise a few minutes earlier and the angle their paths make with the horizon is more vertical, so they will be higher in the sky at sunrise. In Miami, for example, Venus rises at 5:29 a.m. and Mars at 5:25 a.m. local time on Feb. 25, while sunrise is at 6:48 a.m. That puts Venus about 10 degrees high a half hour before the sun comes up. In Quito, where sunrise on Feb. 25 is at 6:23 a.m., Venus rises at 4:46 a.m. and by 5:53 a.m. is 15 degrees high in the southeast; Mars will be above it and to the right.   


The full moon will share the sky with a number of bright winter constellations. For Northern Hemisphere mid-latitude observers, Orion is visible the first half of the night, starting the evening high in the south by 7 p.m. 

Near Orion are Taurus and Gemini, with Taurus on the right and above Orion and Gemini to the left and above it. To the southeast (left and below) of Orion is Canis Major, the Big Dog, home to Sirius, the brightest single star in the sky. All three constellations are bright enough that they don't get overwhelmed by the full moon, even in urban areas. 

In the mid-southern latitudes, the sky gets darker later as it is still the summertime, but by 10 p.m. when the moon is in the northeast, the Southern Cross will be rising in the southeast and about a third of the way from horizon to zenith. Below the Cross one can see Hadar and Rigil Kentaurus (the latter also known as Alpha Centauri) marking the Centaur. High in the south, at 68 degrees in altitude, is Canopus. The brightest star in Carina, the Keel of the legendary Argo.  

Moon Legends 

While the Old Farmer's Almanac refers to the February full moon as the Snow Moon, Native nations in the Americas had a number of traditional names for that particular full moon. According to the Ontario Native Literacy Project, the Ojibwe (or Anishinaabe) peoples called February's full moon Mikwa Giizis, the Bear Moon. The Cree called it the Kisipisim, or the Great Moon, because "animals do not move around much, and trappers have little chance of catching them." 

The Tlingit of the Pacific Northwest call the February full moon S'eek Dís, or Black Bear Moon, while the Haida called it Hlgit’ún Kungáay, or "Goose moon," according to the Tlingit Moon and Tide Teaching Resource published by the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. In the southeast of what is now the United States the Cherokee called the second lunation of the year the Bone Moon. 

In the southern hemisphere, February is during the summer, and the Māori of New Zealand described the lunar month in February to March (as measured between the successive new moons, with the full moon halfway between) as Poutū-te-rangi or "the crops are now harvested," according to the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 

In China, the traditional lunar calendar calls the February lunation the first month, Zhēngyuè, and it is when the traditional Chinese Lunar New Year is celebrated. In 2024 the night of the full moon falls on the lantern festival, which marks the high point of the traditional Chinese New Year festivities.  

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Jesse Emspak
Space.com Contributor

Jesse Emspak is a freelance journalist who has contributed to several publications, including Space.com, Scientific American, New Scientist, Smithsonian.com and Undark. He focuses on physics and cool technologies but has been known to write about the odder stories of human health and science as it relates to culture. Jesse has a Master of Arts from the University of California, Berkeley School of Journalism, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Rochester. Jesse spent years covering finance and cut his teeth at local newspapers, working local politics and police beats. Jesse likes to stay active and holds a fourth degree black belt in Karate, which just means he now knows how much he has to learn and the importance of good teaching.

  • rod
    Admin said:
    The full moon of February, called the Snow Moon, occurs Sunday, Feb. 9, at 2:33 a.m. EST (0733 GMT).

    February full moon 2020: A (sort of) 'super' Snow Moon rises with Mercury : Read more

    After sunset on 08-Feb, I enjoyed a great view of the nearly Full Moon ascending in the east sky with brilliant Venus towards WSW close to 30 degree elevation, Mercury lower just below a tree line. My observations took place near 1800 EST in a large horse pasture with clear skies and temperature 0C that evening. Excellent winter ecliptic view. The Moon reaches perigee on 10-Feb-20 at 2000 UT/1500 EST, 360461 km distance. Lunar Almanac, February issue of Sky & Telescope, p. 42.