Friday is the shortest day of the year and there’s a lot going on once our seven hours and 49 minutes of daylight are done.
This year’s Winter Solstice will also coincide with a full moon (known as the Yule Moon) and the peak of the Ursid meteor shower.
Well, technically the Yule Moon will peak a day later, on December 22, but don’t let that spoil the experience for you.
Why’s it called the Yule Moon? Because it’s the last full moon before Christmas. Over in the US, they call this particular full moon the Cold Moon because Native Americans noted that this is the point in the year when it starts to get really cold.
Meanwhile, the Ursid meteor shower will be spilling sparks across the sky as particles from Comet 8P/Tuttle come into contact with our atmosphere.
The Ursids are a pretty low-key meteor shower but you can still expect to see between five and ten shooting stars per hour. Providing the clouds keep out of the way.
And if you can brave the cold, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the spectacle because the sun will be setting at 3.53pm.
You won’t need binoculars or a telescope, either. Experts say these could actually hinder your experience because they’re designed to magnify stationary objects. When it comes to catching the quick flash of a meteor, you’re better off with the naked eye.
Even without the meteor shower showing up, this is a fairly rare confluence of events. The last time a full moon occurred on the Winter Solstice was in 2010 and the next one won’t be until 2094.
If the sky is clear, you may also be able to see Mercury and Jupiter twinkling among the rest of the stars.
Either way, there’s plenty to keep you entertained on the longest night of the year.
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