The Black Moon will peak today (August 30) when the Moon kick-starts the next phase of the monthly lunar cycle. The event will combine the arrival of a New Moon and Supermoon into one spectacle. Black Moons are incredibly rare and the last one appeared on the night of July 31 to August 1. Read on below to learn more about the ominous-sounding Black Moon.
What is the Black Moon?
Although a Black Moon is loosely defined by various criteria, in popular science it is a Supermoon falling on the day of a New Moon.
A New Moon is the first and last stage of the monthly lunar cycle when the Moon’s Earth-facing side is not lit by the Sun.
A Supermoon, on the other hand, describes a Moon at its closest orbital approach to Earth – the perigee.
If a Supermoon appears during a Full Moon phase it might look slightly bigger and brighter than on average.
The opposite of the Moon’s perigee, the farthest orbital point, is known as the apogee.
Another definition of a Black Moon is the second of two New Moons to appear in the same month.
Astronomers Bruce McClure and Deborah Byrd of EarthSky.org said: “You can’t see a New Moon. It travels across the sky with the Sun during the day.
“But the gravitational influence of the New Moon and Sun combine to physically affect our water planet, which people along the coastlines may notice in the coming days.”
By other definitions, the Black Moon is the second of two New Moons to appear in a month.
The third or fourth New Moon in a single season is also sometimes known as a Black Moon.
And if there is no New Moon in the month of February, that is also sometimes known as a Black Moon.
Some astronomers will apply the same rule to no Full Moon in February – a rare occurrence that happens every 19 years or so.
When is the Black Moon this week? What time is it?
The Black Moon will appear over Earth on Friday, August 30.
The lunar phenomenon will peak around 11.37am BST (10.37am UTC) meaning it will take place during the daytime in the UK.
Fortunately for hopeful astronomers worried about missing the peak, the Black Moon will not be visible to the naked eye on Friday.
Because the New Moon’s lit side faces away from the Earth, the Black Moon will remain shrouded in darkness throughout the day.
Why do we have New Moons every month?
As the Moon orbits both the Earth and the Sun, different amounts of the Moon’s Earth-facing side are lit up every day.
During the so-called lunar cycle, the moonlight we see almost every night is sunlight directly reflected by the Moon’s grey surface.
US space agency NASA explained: “When sunlight hits off the Moon’s far side – the side we can’t see from Earth without the aid of a spacecraft – it is called a New Moon.
“When sunlight reflects off the near side, we call it a Full Moon.
“The rest of the month we see parts of the daytime side of the Moon, or phases.”
The phases in order are New Moon, Waxing Crescent, First Quarter, Waxing Gibbous, Full Moon, Waning Gibbous, Third Quarter and Waning Crescent Moon.