A full moon will mark Christmas Day for the first time in more than 3 decades, astronomers have recently announced.
As emphasized by Mario De Leo Winkler, postdoctoral researcher in astrophysics at the University of California, Riverside’s Physics and Astronomy Department, the phenomenon isn’t actually of major scientific importance, but it will still result in a dazzling celestial spectacle.
John Keller, project scientist for NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission, also believes that this will be a good opportunity to think about how vital the moon has been for our planet, and how its history, which began 4.5 billion years ago, has helped shape our own.
A full moon on Christmas morning hasn’t been reported ever since 1977, and it will take until 2034 for his occurrence to repeat itself.
Equally significant is the fact that this year there’s also been a full moon on Thanksgiving too, and the probability of such events occurring during the same year is actually extremely low.
According to the Farmers’ Almanac, a full moon occurring in December is also known as a Full Cold Moon, given the fact that it happens in the midst of winter, when temperatures are normally at their lowest (with this year being an obvious exception, however).
The phenomenon is also known as a Full Long Nights Moon, since it comes on the heels of the December 21 winter solstice, marking the shortest day of the year.
According to astronomers, the maximum illumination will be reached at approximately 6:11 a.m. EST )11:11 GMT) on Friday, December 25. The moon will be at its highest point in the sky, in opposition with the Sun, which will be at its lowest position.
However, it remains to be seen if conditions for observation will be favorable enough, since in many U.S. regions meteorologists have predicted rain showers and significant cloud cover for that morning.
While focus has been placed on this rare full moon which will be assisting Santa’s reindeer, lighting their way, in fact there will be one more phenomenon occurring during the winter holidays.
More precisely, on Christmas Eve, a huge asteroid which researchers have called 163899 (2003-SD220) will zip past our planet.
As estimations suggest, the space rock, which was first identified by the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth Object Research back in 2003, measures around 1.25 miles in diameter (2 kilometers), the equivalent of around 20 football fields. It will be travelling at around 17 miles per second, while keeping at a safe distance from Earth.
More precisely, according to calculations, at its nearest orbiting point, 2003 SD220 will be around 6,800,000 miles (11 million kilometers) away from our planet, which is about 28 times as much as the distance between Earth and the moon.
As a result, despite doomsayers suggesting that the celestial object will strike our planet or trigger devastating earthquakes, there is actually no such probability, according to astronomers.
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