Backyard Observatory

The First Supermoon of 2020 Arrives Today. Here's How to See It.

supermoon february 2020
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It's a good year for meteor showers and stargazing in general. For many of those events, you'll have leave town and head toward dark skies in order to see anything at all. Not so with a supermoon. It might not be quite as exciting as an eclipse or the Perseids, but it's also a pretty light lift if you want to see the moon looking spectacular.

There will be no shortage of supermoons in 2020. The first to arrive comes February 9. (It's probably just dropping in because of National Pizza Day.) Though it's fun and easy to catch, this supermoon won't be the biggest or the brightest of the year. So, if you miss it, more opportunities are around the corner, including one in March.

The moon will be visible throughout the night, per Time and Date, and it's the moon, so it won't be too difficult to locate as long as you've got decent weather. 

Why there is disagreement over the February supermoon

Anytime there's a supermoon, you'll get a contingent of people saying that it's a misnomer, that a supermoon is really just slightly better than an average full moon which means there's nothing that super about it. All of this and then some applies to the February supermoon.

There's disagreement about how many supermoons will take place in 2020. Some skywatchers say there will be four and count the February full moon as the first of those. Others say that there will only be two with the full moon in March counting as the first of the year. The difference in opinions is because "supermoon" is an unofficial name. 

It's given the unofficial name -- astronomers call them perigean full moons -- when it is within 90% of its closest approach to Earth. At that point, the moon appears to be 14% larger and 30% brighter than when the moon is near its apogee or the further point of its orbit from the Earth. However, there's some ambiguity with how 90% is measured, whether that number is calculated based on the perigee for the month or for the year. 

Nonetheless, you're allowed to totally ignore all of that and just enjoy a beautiful full moon. 

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow him @dlukenelson.