When Is The Last Full Moon Of 2015? It Hasn't Happened On Christmas In Ages
As 2015 draws to a close, we're all trying to squeeze in those inevitable end-of-year "lasts" — the last shopping trip of 2015, the last dinner party of 2015, the last month you'll be able to date something 2015 and have it actually be accurate. And if your end-of-year checklist includes any stargazing, you might be wondering, when is the last full moon of 2015? Well, no word yet on how this might affect Rudolph's job stability, but Santa will be making his annual global toy drop-off this year by the light of a brilliant moon. Yep, the last full moon of 2015 falls on Christmas!
Pretty special, huh? In fact, it's a pretty rare occurrence. The last time a full moon fell on Christmas was more than three decades ago, in 1977, meaning that this will be your first sighting of a full moon on this special date if you are younger than 38. It is only the ninth of its kind in American history, including three Christmas full moons in the 19th century (1806, 1825, and 1863) and three Christmas full moons in the 20th century (1901, 1920, and 1977). In the 21st century, though, we get to enjoy five of these lunar phenomenons (2015, 2034, 2053, 2072, and 2091). ICYMI, that means you're going to want to pay attention to this year's — we won't get another very merry full moon until Christmas 19 years down the line.
Before we delve into some particulars about the Christmas full moons of yore, here's what you need to know about this year's full moon on Dec. 25, 2015. According to Fred Espenak, an eclipse and moon expert with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, this December's full moon will reach its peak size at 6:11 a.m. ET on Christmas morning. The white orb will rise 99 percent illuminated on Dec. 24 (Santa won't have any trouble guiding his sleigh), so Christmas Eve might be the surest bet for best viewing throughout the United States After reaching official full moon status on Christmas morn, the moon will set and rise again at 5:32 p.m. ET Christmas evening. Although December full moons have many nicknames and meanings depending on everything from religion to geography, full moons in December are traditionally known as The Full Cold Moon or the Full Long Nights Moon — apropos for a month when the nights are at their longest and darkest.
Now that you're all set for this year's lunar magnificence, let's take a look at a few full moons from Christmases past.
Nothing particularly strange occurred on the last Christmas full moon, although it was a bit of a big day in the entertainment world. For starters, "You Light Up My Life" by Debby Boone lost its 10-week hold on the Billboard charts top spot to "How Deep Is Your Love?" by the Bee Gees. (Fun fact for Star Wars fans: Boone had taken down "Star Wars theme/Cantina Band" by Meco to claim the crown in the first place.) The Christmas full moon of '77 also saw screen legend Charlie Chaplin pass away.
Well, here's an interesting one for you — during the Christmas full moon of 1901, a one Irving P. Jones, an operator in the police telephone exchange, developed a lifelong hatred of rats after he had to move his wife's Christmas presents in the middle of the night to ward off the hungry rodents. Um, ew. We know this because it was reported in the Minneapolis Tribune. And since that is what we in the biz call a "slow news day," one must assume the full moon on Dec. 25, 1901 was largely uneventful and didn't cause any sort of ripples in the space-time continuum.
Arguably the most memorable of its kind, the Christmas full moon of 1776 was the first Christmas full moon in our nation's history. And, interestingly, it very nearly changed the course of our country's history! According to the National Museum of the American Revolution, George Washington and his Continental Army needed a battle victory badly that year. To that end, Washington chose Dec. 25 as the night to launch a covert attack on Trenton, New Jersey in pursuit of the Hessians forces serving Great Britain.
There was just one hitch — to accomplish this, they needed to ferry the men, horses and munitions across the Delaware River by cover of night. All could have been inadvertently revealed by the brightness of the full moon but, fortunately, heavy cloud coverage concealed Washington and his troops as they carried out their mission.
Happy full moon viewing, everyone!