The final full Moon of 2022—the “Cold Moon”—will look at its brilliant best next week when it rises in the east just as the Sun sets in the west.
For some observers in North America it will also do something very unusual by moving across Mars to entirely block it from view for a short period—and at almost precisely the same time at the red planet shines at its brightest for 26 months. This lunar occultation is a very, very rare event.
Here’s everything you need to know about the full “Cold Moon” including exactly when, where and how to see it at its biggest, brightest and most colorful from where you are:
Names for December’s full Moon
December’s full Moon is also sometimes called the “Long Nights Moon,” the “Moon Before Yule,” the “Wolf Moon” in Celtic nations (a name given to January’s full Moon in North America) and the “Oak Moon.”
When is the ‘Cold Moon?’
The “Cold Moon” will turn full at 04:09 UTC, December 8, 2022. That translates to 11:09 p.m. EDT and 8:09 p.m. PDT the day before on December 7, 2022 in North America.
What is lunar occultation of Mars?
The Moon occults a planet a few times each year, as seen from somewhere on Earth. But a full Moon eclipsing Mars close to its once-every-26 months brightest? Now that’s a rare set of circumstances. That’s exactly what happens on December 7/8, 2022, though only for those living in central, western and southwestern parts of North America (December 7) and in Western and Northern Europe (December 8). See map here.
Why to catch the ‘Cold Moon’ at moonrise
Full Moons are most easily seen at their best at moonrise, which occurs at dusk in the eastern sky almost opposite a setting Sun in the west. Catch it as it rises and the full “Cold Moon” will look both more colorful and larger than it will at any other time of night—but only for about 15 minutes. It’s also more impactful because it’s being viewed in twilight, not darkness.
Watching a moonrise
The full Moon is always best viewed as it rises because only on the night of the full Moon is it possible to see the Moon appear on the horizon during twilight. Since it usually rises about 50 minutes later each night it therefore rises during the early evening just before the night of full Moon and well after dark in the nights after the full Moon.
Best time to see the ‘Cold Moon’
Here are the exact times to see December’s “Cold Moon” from a few key cities, but do check the exact times of moonrise and moonset for your location. If you don’t see the full Moon peek above the horizon at precisely these times just wait for a few minutes. It will rise!
Just after sunset on Thursday, December 8, 2022
Despite the full Moon officially occurring on Wednesday, Thursday evening offers the best opportunity to see the full “Cold Moon” rise into a twilight sky (on Wednesday it will rise before sunset):
- In New York sunset is at 4:28 p.m. EDT and moonrise is at 4:41 p.m. EDT (the moment of full Moon is at 11:09 p.m. EDT the previous evening).
- In Los Angeles sunset is at 4:44 p.m. PDT and moonrise at 5:07 p.m. PDT (the moment of full Moon is at 8:09 p.m. PDT the previous evening).
- In London sunset is at 3:52 p.m. GMT and moonrise just before at 3:41 p.m. GMT (the moment of full Moon is at 4:09 a.m. GMT).
Just after sunset on Friday, December 9, 2022
Friday evening offers another opportunity to see the full “Cold Moon” rise into a twilight for those in Europe:
- In London sunset is at 3:52 p.m. GMT and moonrise is at 4:25 p.m. GMT, just about during twilight.
Where to see the ‘Cold Moon’
The final full Moon of the northern hemisphere’s fall season, the “Cold Moon” will rise in the east just after sunset, shine brightly all night and then set in the west close to sunrise.
How to see the ‘Cold Moon’
You don’t need any special equipment to see a full Moon. Your own unaided eyes are perfect. However, if you do have a a pair of binoculars then they will give you a stunning close-up. It’s perfectly safe.
You’ll more easily see it appear on the horizon if you get somewhere high-up, or go to a coast with a clear view of the horizon.
Why the ‘Cold Moon’ will look orange
Ever heard of “Raleigh scattering?” Long wavelength red light travels more easily through Earth’s atmosphere than short-wavelength blue light, which strikes more particles and gets scattered. So a rising full Moon looks orange because you’re viewing it through a lot of atmosphere—for the same reason a setting Sun looks reddish.
When is the next full Moon?
The next full Moon after the “Cold Moon” is the full “Wolf Moon” on January 6, 2023—the first full Moon of winter and the first of 13 full Moons in 2023.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.