For the first time in 38 years, the Christmas night sky will have a full moon. What joy! The last time this occurred was in 1977 — not too long after the release of the movie Saturday Night Fever. The next Christmas full moon won’t appear until the year 2034, NASA has confirmed.
Of course, this mostly just means there’ll be a brighter night sky if it isn’t cloudy. (And if there’s snow on the ground, Christmas night will take on a particularly ethereal and somber beauty.)
Full Cold Moon, Dec. 25, 3:11 a.m. PST (1111 GMT) —Among some tribes, this moon was called the Full Long Nights Moon. In this month, the winter cold fastens its grip, and the nights are at their longest and darkest. It is also sometimes called the “Moon before Yule” (Yule is Christmas, and this time the Moon is only just before it). The term Long Night Moon is a doubly appropriate name because the midwinter night is indeed long and the moon is above the horizon a long time. The midwinter full moon takes a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite to the low sun.
But you know what would be even cooler and rarer? A Christmastime lunar eclipse.
NASA maintains a calendar of every lunar eclipse that will occur until the year 3000 — should humanity last that long. Lunar eclipses only occur a couple or more times per year — and it’s rare for them to hit the same date twice.