The Washington Post

Tonight’s “Cold” full moon is 2013’s last and smallest


The almost full moon from December 15, 2013 in Arlington, Va. (Kevin Wolf via Flickr)

In between breaks in the clouds this evening, if you can, sneak a quick peak at tonight’s full moon, the last of 2013.  It will rise at 4:35 p.m., reaches fullness at 4:28 a.m. (although by then it may be too cloudy to see), and sets at 7:16 a.m. EST.

The ultimate full moon of 2013 has been named the Cold Moon, the Long Night Moon, and the Moon Before Yule – for reasons that are obvious given the calendar.


The waxing gibbous (almost full) moon December 15 (Jim Knapp via Flickr)

It is not only the last full moon of 2013, but also the smallest.  It’s the full moon that most closely coincides with the most distant point in the moon’s orbit known as the apogee, which will make it appear smaller and duller than the typical full moon. These are the opposite circumstances of the supermoon.

“[It’s within] 500 kilometres of the most distant apogee that can occur, as the Moon’s apogee can vary between ~404,000 and 406,700 kilometres distant,” notes Universe Today.

Despite the moon’s distance away, it will be easy to spot,  if clouds give it a chance.

“She seems to draw more attention than usual at this time of the year due to her persistence in the sky on the year’s longest nights as well as her high declination in the northern sky,” notes Geoff Chester of the U.S. Naval Observatory.

Jason is the Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist. He earned a master's degree in atmospheric science, and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association.
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