The saying “winter is coming” borrowed from the popular HBO show “Game of Thrones” has become a perfect description of the cold season. No doubt most people have already heard it and continue to hear about it although we’re already well into the winter season. But astronomically speaking, the winter starts with the solstice. This year, the solstice will happen this Friday. It’s a period in which the Northern Hemisphere has its shortest day and the longest night of the year.
In 2018, the solstice will be different. First, it will occur very close to not just a full moon but also a supermoon. In that case, it will actually be possible to watch the full supermoon rise from the east and a sunset from the west. The moon will also be the longest full moon of 2018. So, let’s get to the real solstice dates for the year. In the northern hemisphere, solstice will occur on Friday, December 21st at around 5:23 p.m. EST. At that exact time, the sun will be directly above the Tropic of Capricorn.
The winter solstice grabs headlines all the time but have you ever wondered what exactly it is? Let’s try to explain it in a simple way. During winter, the northern hemisphere will be tilted away from the sun. This means that it will get relatively less sunlight compared to other days. In addition to this, the sun is also lower and this means that it takes a shorter path through the sky. As a result, it will only be available for a short period of time. The intensity of the sun is also very low. The very moment that the sun is above the Tropic of Capricorn will mark the Winter solstice.
After the solstice, the days start to get longer. In essence, a lot of people celebrate the winter solstice as the rebirth of the sun and the beginning of the solar year. The solstice this time round will come with a cold full supermoon. In case you want to see it, the moon will be visible at around 12.48 p.m. EST on Saturday 22nd. At this time, the sun and the moon will be on exact opposite sides of the Earth.
The full supermoon will be the biggest attraction no doubt. But it’s important to note that it will actually be too bright to view it for a long time. For people who are light sensitive, the best way to view the moon would be at the time when it’s rising. But in case you still want a peak when the moon is fully illuminated, make sure you look east at around 4.47 P.M. EST in New York. If you’re on the west coast, check east for the moon at around 5:09 P.M. PST. Try to also find some place elevated in order to get the perfect view. Although the solstice is not normally a phenomenon that attracts viewers, the promise of the cold supermoon this year does offer a level of attraction to see something special.