Winter officially starts Friday, Dec. 21, at 5:23 p.m. ET (3:23 p.m. MT).

While places all over the country have been digging out from piles of snow for weeks now, it wasn't officially the fault of winter. Friday marks the winter solstice, which generally falls between Dec. 20-23 each year. It's the time that the Earth's North Pole turns away from the sun, causing winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer in Southern Hemisphere. It brings with it the shortest day and longest night of the whole year. You will only get to see about nine hours, 53 minutes, and 21 seconds of daylight on Friday, compared to the typical 12 or so hours, says the National Weather Service. The sun will be at its lowest elevation around noon. The year's shortest day also equates to the longest night, which is great because the skies will be putting on a show. A meteor show and a full moon accompany this year's solstice.
The annual Ursids shower will peak Dec. 22 to 23. The Ursids shower isn't quite on the level with the Geminid shower that just peaked last week, but it's no slouch. It will decorate the night sky with around five to 10 meteors per hour, but an "outburst" could cause the number to double that, according to This shower was first recorded in England in 1900. This is the last shooting-star show of 2018. The show may be overpowered, however, by the full moon that will peak around mid-day on Dec. 22. Known as a Cold Moon, it has been 18 years since a full moon has coincided with the winter solstice. It's not expected to happen again until 2094, according to NASA! In addition, this is the first time in eight years that the Ursid shower and the Cold Moon have overlapped. Because of the mid-day peak, the moon is best observed on the night of Friday, Dec. 21.

An American astronaut just returned home from a 197-day mission, just in time for the holidays.