The Wednesday night sky will feature the “cold moon”, otherwise known as December’s full moon, at 11:08 p.m. ET. According to CNN, you’ll be able to see Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars in the night sky on Wednesday. There will also be an incredibly rare event called a lunar occultation of Mars at the time when the moon is at its fullest. The red planet will briefly disappear from sight as it passes behind the moon. This event, which is quite rare, can be seen in certain areas of North and South America, Europe, and Africa.
The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 17 mission launch falls on December 7th. This was also the last time that people walked on the moon. For those interested in stargazing, this year’s cold moon offers the perfect opportunity to view a lunar spectacle and reflect on humanity’s magnificent space exploration achievements.
Dr. Noah Petro is the chief of NASA’s planetary geology, geophysics and geochemistry lab. He recently weighed in on the cold moon event. “When you look up at the moon, you should appreciate that it’s not only beautiful … but that it’s a very scientifically important object,” explained Dr. Petro. “There is no other planet in our solar system that has a moon quite like ours. It is unique in many, many ways, and we, as a society, the whole of humanity, are very fortunate to have it literally in our backyard.”
The ‘cold moon’ is significant to many cultures
The Mohawk people named the December full moon “tsothohrha,” which translates to time of cold, in reference to the freezing weather it would usually bring, according to Western Washington Planetarium. Many other Native American tribes gave names to each full moon as a way of keeping track of months. The full moon closest to the winter solstice is known as the “long night moon” by the Mohicans. This year, the longest night of the year falls on December 21.
The full moon will be most visible starting at sunset and lasting until sunrise. Petro suggests finding an area with a clear view of the sky, free from obstructions such as tall buildings or trees, for optimal viewing. “The day before and a day after, the moon will still appear full to the naked eye,” Petro explained. “So, if it’s cloudy on the seventh, you can try again on the eighth.”
The full moon will be visible in the Southern Hemisphere during nighttime hours, although it will appear flipped when compared to views in the Northern Hemisphere.
The final full moon of the year, also known as the cold moon, will take place in December. Sky gazers can also look forward to two vibrant meteor showers during this month – the Geminids and Ursids. The peak dates for these meteor showers are December 14th and 22nd respectively, according to EarthSky’s 2022 Meteor Shower Guide.