The Magic of the New Moon

Jun 6, 2016
New Moon Lit


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There’s something special about the new Moon.  We’ve all felt it. 

For astronomers, new Moon means no Moon.  It’s when the Moon is in line with the sun.  Lost in the solar glare, it’s also lit up from behind, showing us its dark side.  It’s doubly invisible.

For many cultures, the New Moon means something else.  It’s the first sighting of the thin, returning crescent one or two days after astronomical new Moon.  This very thin crescent is always low in evening twilight.

After the Moon’s absence for a few days, it’s kind of a lunar rebirth. Thus, many cultures revolved ceremonies around that first appearance of the new Moon.  For Muslims, its sighting officially marks the beginning of each month.

The seasons vary enormously in how easy it is to see a very young waxing Moon.  In the fall, the Moon’s orbit is almost horizontal compared with the horizon, making the very thin crescent impossible to see. But right now the returning Moon pops upward almost vertically from the sunset position. This is the easiest “new Moon” (thin crescent) of the entire year.


New Moon for February and March 2016

The new Moon for February 2016 is on the 8th.  Look very low in western twilight a half hour after sunset on Tuesday February 9. 

If that proves too challenging, observe on Wednesday February 10 or even the following evening, when the crescents will be fatter, higher, and no challenge at all.

The same sequence repeats on March 9, 10th, and 11.  In particular, the March 9 crescent will be extremely low and as thin as a hair, an excellent, satisfying chalenge.

A smile or an archer’s bow?

Only in late winter does the waxing crescent Moon look like a smile.  The rest of the year it’s more or less lit up on its right side, especially in the autumn.  (The crescent Moon is never oriented like a frown).


The Moon’s orientation also varies with your location. It’s most perfectly lit up on the bottom as seen from southern states and the tropics. But, in truth, the February and March “new Moon” is pretty much a smile everywhere. 

Who can resist?  

About This Blog

Welcome to “This Week’s Amazing Sky,” the Almanac’s blog on stargazing and astronomy. Bob Berman, longtime and famous astronomer for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, will help bring alive the wonders of our universe. From the beautiful stars and planets to magical auroras and eclipses, he covers everything under the Sun (and Moon)! Bob, the world’s mostly widely read astronomer, also has a new weekly podcast, Astounding Universe

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These pictures make great

These pictures make great desktop backgrounds, thanks!

The Magic of the New Moon

Your comment regarding Muslims - In case you are not informed - the sighting indicated the beginning of the new month began with Judaism thousands of years before the muslims ever thought about creating a religion!

Who's really looking?

Ah, yes, but we’re talking about NOW, and actually looking for the thin crescent moon. Rabbis use tables to determine each lunar month, but only the Muslims station Muftis atop minarets that must actually see it, for the new month to be declared. It’s one of the final vestiges of a bygone era when sightings of the Moon altered and affected our daily lives.

New Moon-Earthshine

You didn't mention the Earth Shine- the best part of the New Moon!
Earth Shine is caused by the sunlight reflected back from Earth onto the Moon
and faintly illuminating the lunar surface while in the early New Phase.
This phenomena was one of the proofs by Galileo that the earth actually revolved around the sun on the same way that the moon revolved around the earth. From the lunar perspective the Earth would appear "full "from the perspective of someone on the moon in the way that the moon appears" full" to us here on earth. We can only see our own earth light during this lunar phase.

Coming up soon

Good thinking – and we already have that scheduled for the March new moon. For February we wanted to focus on the unique orientation of the crescent, and the fact that these late winter crescents are the easiest to see of the entire year.

New Moon

How about "Lion-tide"...


Lion-tide is very nice, I like it. The kind of thing that can really catch on. (I assume it goes with “March comes in like a lion….) since the other possible link, to the constellation Leo, wouldn’t work, since the waxing crescent is nowhere near that pattern in Feb and March.


+ a 4-season guide to raising chickens!


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