Moon and Gemini

StarDate: December 31, 2009

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The full Moon highlights the sky on this New Year's Eve night. It's smack in the middle of the constellation Gemini, the twins. The bright stars that represent the heads of the twins -- Pollux and Castor -- are to the left of the Moon this evening. Pollux is the brighter of the two. The constellation's third-brightest star, Alhena, is about the same distance to the right of the Moon.

And there's plenty of time to enjoy the view. This is the Long Night Moon -- a name that indicates that the Moon is in view longer than any other full Moon of the year.

We're just days past the winter solstice -- the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. So the Sun rises late, scoots low across the south, and sets early. In fact, most parts of the United States see 10 hours of sunlight or less.

The full Moon does just the opposite of what the Sun does in our sky. Since there's not much sunlight, there's a lot of moonlight -- around 14 or 15 hours for most of the country, with up to 16 hours at high northern latitudes. The Moon soars quite high across the sky, too.

And since this is the second full Moon this month, it's also known as the Blue Moon.

So enjoy the view of the Long Night Blue Moon as it sails across the sky tonight -- enwrapped in the arms of the celestial twins.

Script by Damond Benningfield

For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.

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