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"Full Cold Moon" to rise on Christmas Day

The Earth will be graced with a rare sight this Christmas: the first full moon to rise on the holiday in almost 40 years.

According to NASA, the full moon will reach its peak at 6:11 a.m. EST on Dec. 25. Not since 1977 has Christmas been brightened by a full moon, and it won't happen again until 2034.

The final full moon of the year is also known as the "Full Cold Moon" since it coincides with the beginning of winter. The winter solstice, officially marking the change of seasons, actually comes a few days earlier, just before midnight on Dec. 21.

"As we look at the moon on such an occasion, it's worth remembering that the moon is more than just a celestial neighbor," John Keller of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement. "The geologic history of the moon and Earth are intimately tied together such that the Earth would be a dramatically different planet without the moon."

The Full Cold Moon on Christmas is a fitting way to wrap up a big year in lunar history. 2015 also featured a so-called Super Blood Moon eclipse in September -- when a total lunar eclipse coincided with a supermoon, a full moon at the closest point of its orbit to Earth. That was the last in a series of four total lunar eclipses occurring over about 18 months, known as a tetrad.

The full moon photo above comes from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been circling the moon and sending back data and images of the lunar surface since 2009.

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