December 2016 Skies
With long stretches of darkness and a Full Moon that blots out the view of the usually spectacular Geminid Meteor Shower, December becomes a perfect time to learn a little moonlore by supermoonlight.
Full moon occurs when the Moon is opposite Earth from the Sun in its 27-dayish orbit. And once per month, the Moon’s elliptical, egg-shaped orbit brings it closest to Earth at a point called perigee. The farthest point in its orbit is called apogee. Head out on the night of December 13th and you’ll not only see a spectacular Full Moon but also it will be at its closest for the month; the third of three supermoons in as many months. Can you feel the Moon’s gravity tugging at your eyeballs? Probably not but with about 30,000 miles between the Moon’s closest and farthest approach, perigee full moons can be as much as 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than an apogee full moon. Get your fill of supermooonlight now. The next won’t occur until January 2, 2018. December’s Full Moon is known as the Full Cold Moon. Some Native American tribes called it the Long Night’s Moon since it occurs near the winter solstice when we have the least amount of daylight. Solstice occurs on Wednesday, December 21st.
Bright Venus is now the ruler of the evening skies. Saturn has faded into the Sun’s sunset brilliance. Mercury makes a brief showing this month and will be its highest above the western horizon just after sunset around December 15th. In the morning, Look for Jupiter high in the sky in the early dawn all month.