Biggest supermoon of the year will happen this week

The full Snow Moon lights up the night sky over Lawrence, Kan., Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The Full Moon will arrive Tuesday morning at 10:54 a.m. It's called the Full Snow Moon because of the heavy snows that are possible in February and has also been called the Full Hunger Moon due to the fact that traditionally food was scarce this time of year.

This month's Full Moon happens very close to something known as the lunar perigee. Because the moon's orbit isn't a perfect circle, it's an ellipse, there are times when the moon is closer to the Earth and times when it's farther away from it. When it's at its closest point the moon is at perigee.

Normally this wouldn't be that big of a deal but because the perigee coincides with the Full Moon we'll have something known as a supermoon and it'll appear bigger and brighter than normal.

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Supermoon isn't an actual astronomical term but it has become popular and is much easier to say than perigee-syzygy which is the technical term. We had a supermoon in January and we'll see one again in March but at "only" 221,681 miles away this is the closest supermoon of 2019.

To really experience the phenomenon look at the moon when it's close to the horizon and enjoy something known as the "moon illusion". Simply put the moon looks bigger near the horizon that it actually is.

You may have noticed this if you ever tried to take a photo of the moonrise with your phone or a camera. It's no bigger than it is if you take the photo when it's higher in the sky but we perceive the moon to be bigger when it's closer to the horizon.

This illusion is nothing new, we've known about it for centuries; in fact, Aristotle wrote about it. We don't know for certain what causes it but many believe it has to with the fact that we know how big trees and buildings are.

When we see the moon next to them it seems bigger. Once the moon gets higher in the sky we don't have a reference point and therefore we perceive that it's smaller.

That means that the best views of the supermoon will be had by looking in the west early Tuesday before sunrise and in the east shortly after sunset, provided the weather cooperates.