There’s no need to keep one’s eyes peeled for tonight’s lunar phenomenon—it will be in your face with the luminescent Snow Moon, which is attracting a lot of online chatter both for being a spectacular display and for being an Algonquin term, at least according to the Farmers' Almanac.
Every tribe has names for the moon, a different one for each month in many cases. With Earth’s satellite changing shape and color in the sky almost daily, and its lighting and position varying month by month, it’s not surprising that the orb has earned many monikers.
“The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full moon,” states the Farmers' Almanac, the principal source quoted by numerous media outlets. “Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred.”
Tonight Mother Earth will bask in the full glow of the Snow Moon, which according to the Farmers' Almanac earned the designation because of what is usually happening on the Algonquins' traditional turf, the territory stretching from the Great Lakes through what is known today as the northeastern United States.
“Some tribes also referred to it as the Full Hunger Moon or Little Famine Moon, since harsh weather conditions in their areas made hunting very difficult,” the Farmers' Almanac says. “Forced to gnaw on bones and sip bone marrow soup for sustenance, the Cherokee named it the Full Bony Moon.”
The Algonquin name may have the world abuzz, but it is just one of dozens of tribal names for the February moon. Some samples are below, thanks to the site AmericanIndian.net, which actually lists the Algonquin name for February moon as wapicuummilcum, or Ice in River Is Gone.
Other tribal February moon names, according to the site: the Abenaki call it piaôdagos, Makes Branches Fall in Pieces Moon; the Anishnaabe (Chippewa, Ojibwe), from the Great Lakes, named it the Sucker Moon, or namebini-giizis. The Apache had a cheerier epithet, Frost Sparkling in the Sun, while the Assiniboine called it Long Dry Moon, and the Choctaw nicknamed it hotvlee-hv'see, or Wind Moon. Back in the wintry realm, the Comanche of the southern plains called it positsu mua, Sleet Moon, while the Canadian Cree of the northern plains called it the Old Moon. Up north in Alaska it’s also known as cepizun, or Old Moon, among the Haida, while the Hopi call it powamuya, Moon of Purification and Renewal.
On a more pessimistic note, the Kalapuya of the Pacific Northwest, in what is today Oregon, called it atchiulartadsh, Out of Food. Cannapopa wi was the name given the moon by the Lakota of the northern plains, Moon When the Trees Crack Because of the Cold.
One name unlikely to surface soon is 51st State, USA, Republican Presidential hopeful Newt Gringrich's vow to colonize the moon notwithstanding. The moon's rutted dark side, which the Earth never sees, bears the scars of interplanetary bombardment, as the recent NASA video shows.
Tonight’s abnormally springlike temperatures will not deter the Snow Moon from shining brightly, however. Stay tuned for the full brilliance starting at 4:54 p.m. EST (2154 GMT), according to Space.com. The moon has been blazing since yesterday and will continue into tomorrow night, but tonight is the actual full moon, Space.com said.
"The full moon rises around sunset and sets around sunrise, the only night in the month when the moon is in the sky all night long," Space.com said, quoting a February 2012 skywatching guide written by contributor and astronomer Geoff Gaherty.