Will you spot the “Cold Moon” this month? December’s full moon gets its name from the time of year when temperatures drop and it begins to get really cold. After all, December 22 is the solstice — the longest night of the year — and the official onset of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Consequently, it’s been called the “Long Nights Moon” by some Native American tribes because of its proximity to the solstice, though the exact date shifts each year. This moon is also called the “Moon Before Yule" by some Europeans, a festive reference to the beginning of the Yuletide season.
Whatever you call it, the final full moon of 2019 promises to be a special sight.
When is the Cold Moon?
The night of a full moon is the only night of the month when the moon rises around sunset, shines brilliantly all night, and sets around sunrise the following morning. The moment when the Cold Moon is precisely full and 100% illuminated by the sun is 12:12 a.m. EST on December 12 for those on the east coast and 9:12 p.m. PST on December 11 for those on the west coast. However, that’s not the optimal time to observe the full Cold Moon.
When are the best times to look at the Cold Moon?
The best time to observe a full moon isn’t when it’s bright, white, and high in the night sky — it's actually best to look when the moon is close to the horizon as it rises and sets. This month, that means looking east on Wednesday just hours before the moon is full or on Thursday around dawn or sunset. The reward is a full moon drenched in a pale orange color looming above the horizon.
In New York City, the moon will rise at 4:18 p.m. EST on Wednesday just a few minutes before sunset at 4:29 p.m. EST. On Thursday, moonset is at 7:27 a.m. EST shortly after sunrise at 7:10 a.m. EST.
In Los Angeles, the moon will rise on Wednesday at 4:38 p.m. PST just a few minutes before sunset at 4:44 p.m. PST. On Thursday, moonset is at 7:12 a.m. PST shortly after sunrise at 6.49 a.m. PST. On Thursday evening, the sun will set at 4:44 p.m. PST and the moon will rise quite some time later, at 5:27 p.m. PST.
Be patient; if you don’t see the moon, it’s probably behind some low cloud. Just wait a few minutes, and it will likely appear.
When is the next full moon?
The next full moon is on Friday, January 10, 2020. It is called the "Full Wolf Moon," and it's going to be something extra-special since the moon will drift into Earth’s outer shadow, creating a full Wolf Moon eclipse, visible from some parts of Earth.