Each December brings the Winter Solstice, which historically marks the shortest day of the year (so too, it's the longest night of the year). What makes this year's Winter Solstice so special is the addition of the last full moon of the year (also known as a full cold moon). But wait, there's more! This year 's cold moon will be sharing the longest night of the year with a meteor shower. It will be an astronomical show to remember!
The Cold Moon itself is also pretty special as it will be another 11 year's before a full cold moon will coincide with the Winter Solstice.
Adding to the magic of the full moon and the solstice is the peak of the Ursid Meteor Shower. The Ursids are named for the constellation they appear to be shooting out from, Ursa Minor (also called the Little Dipper).
You should be able to view the Ursids through December 25th, but the best viewing will be just after midnight tonight, December 21st. To increase your chance of seeing the meteor shower, find a dark location outside of the city with little to no light pollution. The clear skies around Gila Bend, AZ. provide the perfect place to get a good view of the stars. Just remember to bring a warm blanket and dress in layers.
For help finding access to viewing locations around Gila Bend, contact the Gila Bend Visitor Center.
1. Another name for the Cold Moon is 'Snow Moon'.
2. The word 'solstice' actually means 'sun stands still' and refers to the apparent movement of the Sun's path (north or south) stopping before changing direction.
3. The shortest day of the year lasts for only 7 hours, 49 minutes and 41 seconds.
For more celestial excitement around Gila Bend, click here.