This Week: The earliest sunset, the full cold Moon and Mars

This Week: The earliest sunset, the full cold Moon and Mars

There’s a lot going on in the sky this week. For starters, we see the earliest time the sun will set.
For those of us that dread to see such early sunsets the last several weeks – no worries, it’s going to start changing soon. Did you know that the earliest sunset actually occurs before the winter solstice?
How can this be? It all has to do with the way we measure time and the sun. Our days aren’t always exactly 24 hours long, but our clocks are. There is a discrepancy on how we mark "noon time" on our clocks vs. when the sun reaches the highest point in the sky. This varies slightly during the year due to our elliptical orbit and tilt. The timing also changes with degrees of latitude.
The winter solstice is still the "shortest day" of the year, or the day with the least amount of daylight. The dates for the earliest sunset times vary with latitude. The southern states have already seen their earliest sunset and now it’s our turn this week.
The latest sunrise for our area will occur on Jan. 7. So while the amount of daylight will still shorten through the solstice, it will appear as if the day is growing longer again.
Next up on Dec. 7 is the full moon! December’s full moon is known as the Cold Moon. On this same night, Mars will also be in be in opposition. For some across the U.S., the full moon will occult, or pass right in front of Mars. Unfortunately, the tri-state area is just out of reach to see this. This doesn’t mean it won’t be a great time to view the orange planet. Opposition is the best time to view Mars, as it will be closest to Earth, and at it’s brightest magnitude (-1.9), while it’s sits opposite the Sun. Mars and the moon will be visible all night. They will appear to be very close to each other and almost touch. Their closest approach will be just before 11 p.m.
Like always – all we need is great weather. There’s a chance we may not see everything perfectly with clouds and showers this week. For more on the local forecast, be sure to stay up to date with your News 12 Storm Watch Team meteorologist.