December 21 may be a little more unique in 2018 in comparison to other years, People is reporting. As you might already know, Friday, December 21, will be the shortest day and longest night of the year. If you’re doing a countdown, the winter solstice will technically begin at 5:23 p.m. — this is when the sun will be directly above at the Tropic of Capricorn. This means the sun will be further away in the Northern Hemisphere than usual, so there is less direct radiation to heat the ground.
As confusing as it is, there is a reason for this happening. Over the span of a year, the earth tilts on its axis at a diagonal away from or toward the sun. This shift results in seasons changing. For that particular minute (this year being 5:23) the Northern hemisphere begins to angle toward the sun, which results in us eventually encountering longer days and warmer temperatures, at least until the spring equinox when day and night are exactly the same amounts of time.
Solstices occur twice a year in the summer and winter, while two equinoxes occur per year in the fall and spring. An equinox signifies the sun passing close over the equator, while a solstice signifies when the sun is farthest away. So why is 2018’s solstice so special?
This year, the winter solstice occurs on the exact same night December’s Full Cold Moon will occur. According to Forbes, NASA also refers to this moon as the Long Night Moon. These names were coined by Native Americans long ago. Technically, the moon will not be at its peak until the next night on December 22, but for a majority of people around the world, a full moon will be present for multiple nights. Native Americans would regard the Full Cold Moon as a sign that the coldest part of the year was beginning. While the last time these events landed on the same night was in 2010, this coincidence is certainly rare — the next time a full moon will actually peak during a winter solstice won’t be until 2094.
If the moon doesn’t wow you, what about planets? You’ll be able to get a decent view of Mercury and Jupiter for the solstice this year. In addition, the Ursid meteor shower will be at its peak on the nights of December 21 and 22, meaning you’ll have more chances than ever to catch sight of a shooting star. While the sun won’t be out as long on December 21, nighttime will bring a spectacle.