Much media hype surrounds Moon names, such as “Blood Moon” and “Blue Moon,” but have you ever heard of a “Black Moon”? This year, there are three Black Moons in a row. Here’s an explanation of this ominous-sounding name.
What is a Black Moon?
Like “Blood Moon” and “Blue Moon,” “Black Moon” is not an astronomical term. In fact, if you ask a sample of astronomers, both professional and amateur, very few will have even heard of it. It’s not even a particularly widely known aspect of folklore. For this reason, its definition can vary, which means that “Black Moon” may refer to…
…the second new Moon in a month. This is similar to the Blue Moon, which has become a common term for the second full Moon in a month. (This is the definition of Black Moon that’s used most often.)
…when there are NO new Moons in a month (February). This can only happen in February, and thus is fairly rare, meaning once every 5 to 10 years.
…every new Moon, since we’re then seeing the Moon’s dark or black side.
…the third new Moon when there are four in a season, which is actually one of the definitions of a “blue Moon” when the same thing happens to a full Moon.
You can’t see a new Moon. But the gravitational influence of the new Moon and Sun combine to create the stronger tides that we get for a few days around every full Moon and new Moon.
When is the Next Black Moon?
If we go by the most popular “two new Moons in one month” definition, Black Moons are slightly rare, occurring about every 32 months (two to three years).
A Black Moon Hat Trick
This year, those who live in places that follow Central, Mountain, Pacific, or Alaska Standard Time are in for a treat. In these time zones, the next Black Moon will occur on January 31, 2022. This new Moon is the second of two January new Moons in those time zones. (For everyone farther east, this new Moon occurs on February 1 and is technically not a Black Moon.)
That’s not all, though: Another Black Moon will occur in these time zones on March 31, 2022!
But wait, there’s even more! Because two new Moons occur in both January and March, there will be no new Moon at all in February. This fits the second definition of Black Moon listed above, meaning that folks in these time zones will get three Black Moons in a row this year!
Yes, it’s all about that timing!
An April Black Moon in the East
If you live in the Eastern or Atlantic time zones, you won’t be totally left out this year! A Black Moon will appear for you on April 30, 2022, as the second new Moon in the month of April.
What Will You See During a Black Moon?
This is the unfortunate part about Black Moons: you won’t see much. Like all new moons, it’ll cross the sky with the Sun during the day. Humans can’t see the new Moon in the Sun’s glare.
During the new Moon phase, the Moon is not illuminated by the Sun and seems to disappear from the night sky. A new Moon is practically invisible to the naked eye, so there’s nothing to see during a so-called Black Moon.
Remember, there are four quarters of the Moon—the Moon phases. There’s usually a new moon and a full Moon about once a month, because the Moon takes about a month to orbit Earth.
You all know the “full Moon,” when the entire disk of the Moon is illuminated by the Sun (because they are on opposite sides of the sky).
In contrast, the “new Moon” has its dark side facing us. It’s not reflecting any of the Sun’s light because the Moon is lined up between the Earth and Sun.
Although there’s not much to see when a Black Moon rises, the good news is that a moonless sky is excellent for stargazing (since the Moon’s light won’t drown out the stars). Check out our monthly star charts to know what to look for this month.
A day or two after the new Moon, you’ll see the slim crescent Moon in the west after sunset. By August 6, you’ll see the Moon in the night sky again.
What do you think about the Black Moon now? Should it carry any significance? Let us know in the comments! Happy stargazing!