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Sonoma County Gazette
Winter Solstice


The Winter Solstice & The Full Cold Moon

Nov 27, 2018
by Tre Gibbs


Here we are, at the end of 2018 and this month brings important changes to our night sky.  The most influential event of the month is happening on December 21st at 2:09 pm, and that, my friends, is The Winter Solstice!

Winter Solstice marks not only the first day of Winter, but what is usually the shortest day and the longest night of the year.Ever since June 21st of this year, our nearest star, The Sun, has been slowly making its way south - rising and setting a little further south each and every day, simultaneously shortening our days and increasing our nights. This month, on December 21st, the sun will rise and set at the most furthest point south. This marks not only the first day of Winter, but what is usually the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Then, the next day, on the 22nd, the Sun will gradually start to head north again, increasing our amount of daylight and decreasing our evening hours.

Winter’s first Full Moon occurs this month as well! On December 22nd, we will be treated to The Full Cold Moon! Ancient tribes also referred to this month’s full moon as “The Long Night’s Moon”, since December’s Full Moon usually corresponds with the longest night of the year. The moon will be officially full at 9:50 am, though it will appear full the night before, during (of course) and the night after.

The moon will also share the sky with some of the more prominent and visible planets. For early risers look to the east on the morning of December 3rd. Low on the horizon (and weather permitting), you will see the brilliant planet Venus just below a thin, waning, crescent moon.   On The evening of December 14th, look for the first quarter (or half full) moon traveling the evening sky below the dimming, but still bright, planet Mars.

And speaking of planets…this year was a great year for viewing Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars.  As 2018 comes to an end, the only planet easily visible in our evening skies is Mars, The God of War.  Saturn has moved so close to the glare of the setting sun that it’s dificult to spot.  Jupiter is making its way towards the glare of the sun as well, making it impossible to see from Earth. Both of these gas giants will eventually slip to the other side of the sun and will be visible in our early, pre-dawn skies, but we will have to wait a few months for that to happen.

In the meantime, have a safe and wonderful Holiday Season…and remember, KEEP LOOKING UP !



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