Gorgeous supermoon — the last of 2019 — ushers in spring

March 21, 2019, 11:24 a.m.
The final supermoon of 2019 coincided with the vernal equinox for the first time since March 1981.
Photo: David McDonald45/Flickr

The last time a supermoon graced the night sky at the same time as the spring equinox, Dolly Parton's single "9 to 5" was at the top of the charts, the first DeLorean DMC-12s were rolling off the production line, and barely anyone knew who Indiana Jones was. ("Raiders of the Lost Ark" wouldn't be released until June.)

But 38 years removed from that March day in 1981, the world was treated to a brilliant show by the final supermoon of 2019. Nicknamed the "Crow Moon" by northern Native American tribes for the cawing of crows signaling the end of winter, it also goes by such monikers as the Worm Moon, for the return of robins to feast on emerging worms, and the Crust Moon, for the top layers of snow melting and freezing in rhythm to the month's undulating temperatures.

The supermoon of February 2019 rising over Kettle Range, Washington. The supermoon of February 2019 rising over Kettle Range, Washington. (Photo: Rocky Raybell/Flickr)

As for why we've had a recent string of super full moons dating back to January, it's all due to the elliptical orbit of the moon around the Earth. A supermoon occurs when the moon is both full and at its closest approach in its orbit, a term called apogee, to the Earth. While that makes it appear only about 14 percent larger, fairly indiscernible from your standard full moon, it's also roughly 30 percent brighter.

The supermoon in January, which also coincided with a total lunar eclipse, rising behind the statue named 'L'envol' in France. The supermoon in January, which also coincided with a total lunar eclipse, rising behind the statue named 'L'envol' in France. (Photo: JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/Getty Images)

If you happened to miss any of this year's supermoons, don't despair. 2020 will feature no less than four from February to May. As for the next time a full moon falls on the same date as the arrival of spring, such a brilliant welcome won't occur again until March 2030.