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Long-Night Moon

December 16, 2013

Romantics and werewolves take note: There’s a lot of moonlight the next few nights — more than at any other time of the year. The middle of the country, for example, will see about 14-and-a-half hours of moonlight the next three nights, after the day brings just nine-and-a-half hours of sunlight.

That extra lunar glow is the result of the Moon’s phase and the time of year. The Moon will be full in the wee hours of tomorrow morning. It lines up opposite the Sun in the sky, so it rises around sunset and sets around sunrise. And we’re just a few days away from the winter solstice — the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. The shortest days are accompanied by the longest nights. So December’s full Moon is known as the Long Night Moon.

Not only does the Moon remain in view for a long time, it also climbs highest across the sky for the year. That’s because the Moon lies close to the ecliptic, which is the Sun’s path across the sky.

At this time of year, the ecliptic arcs low across the sky during the day because Earth’s north pole is tipped away from the Sun. But the full Moon is on the opposite side of Earth, so the north pole tips toward it. As a result, the ecliptic climbs high across northern skies — and so does the full Moon.

The exact moment of the full Moon, by the way, is 3:29 a.m. Central Standard Time — the time of the Long Night Moon.

Tomorrow: The glow of escaping table scraps.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013

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