Christmas has come and gone, leaving bone-chilling weather behind. The year’s last full moon rose early Christmas night; the only Christmas full moon in decades. December’s full moon, known as the Full Cold Moon, deserved its name this winter. The temperature plummeted in Salt Lake City as the moon climbed.
Christmas day began with snow falling through calm air. Spells of big lazy flakes alternated with dry snow crystals. The powder snow of the high Rockies. A new layer freshened drifts already on the ground.
Storm clouds moved east by noon, followed by cobalt-blue skies that promised bitter cold. Fresh snow, short days and clear skies give way to glacial nights at altitude.
Salt Lakers made Christmas rounds cheered by bright sunshine. Children sledded down the steep hills of the neighborhood park, draining off energy fueled by excitement and treats. Snow-encrusted dogs raced after the sleds.
Finally, nightfall. Christmas dinners eaten. Guests gone. The chaos (mostly) cleaned up. Quiet settled in as softly as snowflakes.
Moonlight flooded the broad hillside east of the house, the moon near the zenith. Trees cast sharp moon shadows against the snow. Orion suspended in the southern sky, familiar childhood friend. Bedtime. Time to close the bedroom shutters for the night and slide under the comforter.
Wonder stopped me at the window. On the hill thousands of tiny stars had fallen to earth. Glittering and sparkling. Stretching to the horizon. Today’s blanket of snowflakes transformed into the night’s universe of earthbound stars, shooting light back into space.
It was mesmerizing. The flash and glitter of snowflakes in moonlight had never been brighter. The sight of full moon, earthly stars and Orion watching from above had never been so dazzling. An astronomical Christmas present to remember for years to come.