The February full moon created a sensation because it was the second of three consecutive full “supermoons” this year. “Super” refers to a full or new moon that comes within 90 percent of its closest approach to the Earth. The third and final supermoon arrives just in time for the equinox on March 20, making it the first full moon of the spring season. The equinox occurs on March 20, at 1:58 p.m. on the West Coast. The sun sets at 5:41 p.m. that evening, with moonrise at 6:42 p.m.
By using a compass, or the compass app on a smartphone, it’s easy to determine exactly where the moon will rise—the heading for the March 20 moonrise is 165 degrees SSE.
The moon appears larger when it is close to the horizon. For the most spectacular moonrise, whether super or ordinary, catch the moon as it appears above the horizon, or in much of Topanga, above the ridgeline.
Good places to watch the moonrise close to home include Elephant Rock in Topanga State Park, the Saddle Peak lookout off Saddle Peak Road, and the main ocean view trail in Tuna Canyon Park.
For an ocean moonrise, check out Malibu Lagoon State Park, where the moon rises behind the Santa Monica Mountains, with the Malibu Pier or the still water of the lagoon in the foreground.
The best time to photograph this natural phenomenon is usually the evening before the moon is officially full. On February 19, the nearly full moon rises at 5:47 p.m., minutes after sunset but before the sky is fully dark.
The traditional name for the March full moon is the “worm moon,” thought to refer to this full moon coinciding with the start of spring and the warming of the soil. That this “full worm supermoon” arrives right in time to herald the official arrival of spring makes it doubly worth watching for.