cold full moon in december

When is The Full Moon in December? The Cold Full Moon 2023

Last Updated: September 19, 2023

The upcoming full Moon in December will grace our night sky on Tuesday December 26, 2023 at 7:33 PM EST or December 27, 2023 at 12:33 AM UTC. During this particular phase of its lunar cycle, the Moon will have aged 13.91 days, offering a near perfect illumination of 99.97%.

With a tilt angle of 198.936°, our natural satellite will be located approximately 391,253.19 km away from Earth. This equates to about 243,113.46 miles, or roughly 0.00261 Astronomical Units (AU). This means the Moon will only be about 9.2% away from its average perigee distance (closest distance from Earth).

In terms of light travel time, this distance corresponds to approximately 0.0217 light minutes. In the realm of astrology, the Moon will align with the sign of Cancer on this day.

Countdown to the December Full Moon

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Table of Contents

December Full Moon Stargazing Information

The Moon’s magnitude, a measure of its brightness, will be -12.63. In astronomical terms, a lower value signifies a brighter object, which means the Moon will be exceptionally bright during this event.

The terms Ra/Dec refer to the Moon’s position in the sky, known as Right Ascension (Ra) and Declination (Dec). These coordinates will be 06h 14m47.9s and +27°40’13.1″, respectively, corresponding to the celestial longitude and latitude.

Similarly, the terms Az/Alt denote the Moon’s azimuth and altitude, which represent the Moon’s direction and height from the horizon, respectively. These will be 102°24’26.6″ for the azimuth and +45°28’30.9″ for the altitude.

The Moon will have an apparent diameter of 30 arcminutes and 21 arcseconds, so even though it will be quite enjoyable to the naked eye, observing it with a basic set of binoculars or a small telescope, will allow for a detailed exploration of its surface features if using a lunar filter. It might be too bright otherwise.

Additional information:

  • Moonlight intensity: High
  • Moonlight shadows: Strong
  • Culmination time: location dependent
  • Moonrise time: location dependant
  • Moonset time: location dependent
  • Supermoon? No
  • Micromoon? No
  • Blue moon? No
  • Lunar Eclipse: No
  • Conjunctions? None
  • Close approach: None

Nearby night sky objects:

On that night, the full moon will be located right in between the Auriga, Gemini, Taurus and the Orion constellation. Just north of the Moon, you’ll be able to spot binary stars Capella and slightly to the southeast, red supergiant Betelgeuse, the ninth brightest star in the night sky.

In the northeast direction from the Moon, you will be able to see The Pleiades (also known as the Seven Sisters) and if you keep going in that direction, you’ll cross paths with Jupiter, the godfather planet of the solar system, shining at a strong magnitude of -2.49. In between the Moon and Jupiter, Uranus is slowly making its way along the ecliptic. 

Why is the Full Moon in December called the Cold Moon?

Typically called the Cold Moon, this moon comes at the time of year when the change in weather from fall can be particularly felt. The nights are their longest and darkest so the Full Moon provides some needed light. 

Thankfully, the moon is above the horizon for a long time as it takes a high trajectory due to it being opposite the low Sun. Old English and Anglo-Saxon names include the Moon Before Yule and the Long Night Moon. 

A Celtic variation is the Oak Moon, although they also called it the Cold Moon. In China, it is known as the Bitter Moon.

Related reading: The Meaning Behind the 12 Full Moon Names

the full moon over frozen mountains

Observing this Cold Full Moon with astronomical equipment

The Moon offers a variety of interesting features that you can observe, even with modest equipment. The Moon is without a doubt the easiest celestial object to observe with a backyard telescope or a pair of astronomical binoculars.

The Moon can shine a rather bright light when it is full so the use of a special lunar filter can help improve your view of the Moon. This is an additional component that reduces the amount of light coming into the telescope, making it easier to see the details without being blinded.

It essentially works much like ‘sunglasses’ for your telescope. It reduces glare and improves contrast, allowing you to see more detail. The filter threads into the bottom of an eyepiece, so it’s easy to add or remove as needed.

A smaller aperture telescope (60mm to 80mm) can provide good views of the Moon. You’ll be able to see a decent amount of detail, including larger craters and lunar maria.

Medium aperture telescopes (around 100mm to 150mm) will give you a much better view, revealing many more features and allowing you to see smaller craters and other details.

With large aperture telescopes (200mm and above), that’s where the magic happens! You’ll see more detailed views of the edges of lunar maria, where they meet the highlands.You’ll be able to discern more subtle color differences in the lunar surface as well as mountain ranges casting subtle shadows on the lunar surface. You might be able to see hints of the lunar domes, which are gentle, rounded mounds thought to be the remnants of ancient lunar volcanoes.

Be sure to choose the correct eyepiece as it will greatly influence your field of view at the eyepiece. Try my field of view calculator to determine the best eyepiece for your lunar observations.

Planning your lunar observation with Stellarium

Stellarium is a free open-source planetarium for your computer that shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars, or a telescope. It’s one of my favourite stargazing applications. I use it on a weekly basis and it’s super easy to use.

Here is a step-by-step guide to using it for timing your observation of the upcoming cold full Moon:

  1. Set Your Location: Open https://stellarium-web.org/ into your internet browser. In order to find accurate rise and set times for the Moon, you need to set your geographic location. Click on the “Location Window” button on the left toolbar. In the window that pops up, search for your city in the “Search” field, then click on your city’s name in the list. This sets your location.
  2. Set the right time: Stellarium can show you the sky at any time, past, present, or future. To get the full Moon time, which in December will be the 27th, you need to click on the “Date/time window” button on the bottom right of the screen. You can also manually adjust the time by hours and minutes and see the sky move before your eyes.
  3. Locate the Moon: Now, you need to find the Moon in the sky. You can do this by using the search function. Click on the “Search Window” button on the centre top of  screen. Type “Moon” into the search field and press enter. The view should now center on the Moon.
  4. Check Moonrise and Moonset Times: Once the Moon is centered, an information box should pop up on the upper left corner of the screen. This box will provide various details, including the moonrise and moonset times for the chosen day.

december full moon location in the sky

Dates & Times for the other Moon phases in December

Besides the full moon, there are seven other major phases in the lunar cycle: the new moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, waning gibbous, last quarter, and waning crescent. Each of these phases presents a unique view of the moon and contributes to the lunar cycle that we observe from Earth.

  • Last Quarter on Monday, 04 December 2023 at 21:49 PST (05:49 UTC)
  • New Moon on Tuesday, 12 December 2023 at 01:28 PST (09:28 UTC)
  • First Quarter on Tuesday, 19 December 2023 at 10:39 PST (18:39 UTC)

The next Cold full Moon will take place on Sunday, December 15, 2024 4:02 AM EST (9:02 AM UTC).

Lunar Luminosity: the full Moon’s light influence on the world

The full Moon has a few notable influences on Earth:

  • Tides: The gravitational pull of the Moon causes the Earth’s oceans to bulge out in the direction of the Moon.
  • Light: A full Moon provides significant natural light at night, which can affect nocturnal animals’ behavior and plant life.
  • Floral behaviours: Some species of plants, such as the Ephedra foeminea (also known as werewolf plant) releases its pollen in sync with the full Moon.
  • Human behavior: There have been many theories on how the full Moon may affect humans differently, whether it be our sleep pattern, our cardiovascular system, menstruation cycles, and our mood and mental health. However, despite much scientific research that has been done in the last ten years,  scientists have not been able to prove the effects of the full Moon on human psychology or behavior.

Full Moon celebrations around the world

The full Moon has been a significant cultural symbol and theme throughout human history, appearing in myths, legends, superstitions, and rituals across the globe. In Thailand, the full Moon is celebrated every month during the infamous full Moon party.

In Sri Lanka, each full Moon day is a public holiday, known as Poya. Each Poya has its own name and is associated with Buddhist events. These days, people often go to the temple for religious observances.

In Wiccan traditions, an Esbat is a ritual observance of the full Moon. It’s a time for meditation, divination, and spellwork that align with the peak of the Moon’s energy.

In China, the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is celebrated during the full Moon of the 8th lunar month (usually September). Families gather to admire the Moon, eat mooncakes, and in some regions, light lanterns.

If you know of any more celebrations that should be added to this list, let me know in the comment.

How dull would our night sky be without our natural satellite? Why not use this full moon as an opportunity to plan a lovely stargazing date with someone special in your life?

Past Full Moons This Year

Tom Urbain
I’ve been fascinated by space and astronomy from a very young age. When I’m not watching space-themed documentaries, movies or TV series, I spend most of my free time in my backyard admiring the planets and galaxies with my telescope.

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