A series of “Black Moons” mean dark skies ideal for stargazing.
Supermoon, Blood Moon … “Black Moon?” You’re about to see the unusual latter phrase mentioned a lot in the media so it’s best you know what it is in advance of all the hype.
A Black Moon is a quirk of the calendar and not a special astronomical event you need —or even can—go see and enjoy.
Unlike a supermoon, which is when the Moon is closest to Earth on its egg-shaped monthly orbit, and a Blood Moon, which is the colloquial term for a total lunar eclipse, a Black Moon is the result of the celestial mechanics and the Gregorian calendar not being at all in sync.
There are a few different definitions.
A Black Moon is typically said to be when there’s more than one New Moon in the same calendar month. That can occur because the Moon takes 29.5 days to orbit Earth, which is roughly the length of a month—a moonth. The reason why most months are longer than that—and one month, February, shorter—is because 12 orbits of the Moon is only 354 days … and we know Earth takes 364 days to orbit the Sun. We live by a solar calendar and not a lunar calendar!
Making up the shortfall by adding a few days to the length of months has consequences. Just occasionally there’s a New Moon on the first day of a month and another 29.5 days later. Cue a Black Moon.
However, there are other definitions of a Black Moon:
A few of those things are about to happen … in a row.
A New Moon is invisible. It occurs when the Moon is roughly between the Earth and the Sun, so it’s lost in our star’s glare from our point of view. With the Moon out of the night sky completely it’s a great time to go stargazing in a dark sky destination (such as a Dark Sky Park or to a Dark Sky Discovery Site).
The New Moon’s position means that sometimes a New Moon can cause a solar eclipse. That will happen twice in 2022, with partial eclipses on both April 30 and October 25, 2022.
The next New Moon is a Black Moon … for some. On January 2, 2022 a New Moon occurred. For much of the world the next New Moon is on February 1, 2022, so no Black Moon.
However, in some areas of North America—specifically those on CST, MST and PST—that New Moon will occur on January 31, 2022.
As well as being a Black Moon for some it will also signal the beginning of the Lunar New Year—also called Chinese New Year—and the “Year Of The Water Tiger.”
However, for varying timezones around the world there is no New Moon in February and there are two New Moons in March. So, according to timeanddate.com, there are actually three Black Moons in a row.
The next time there’s a second New Moon in a single calendar month is in April, with the New Moon on April 30, 2022 a Black Moon—and also a partial solar eclipse (see below). For most people in the world this is the only Black Moon in 2022.
The next full Moon will be the “Snow Moon” on February 16, 2022. It’s also called the “Storm Moon” and “Hunger Moon.” The Moon will appear full or thereabouts for about three nights.
The next total lunar eclipse will occur on May 16, 2022 and be visible from North America. Here’s a simulation of what it will look like.
The Moon orbits Earth on a slightly elliptical or egg-shaped orbit so there’s always going to be one full Moon per year that’s the closest. This year that’s the “Super Buck Moon” on July 13, 2022. The latter will the year’s largest-looking full Moon, and though it won’t easily be noticeable to the naked eye it will be significantly brighter.
However, the “Super Strawberry Moon” occurring on June 14, 2022, also falls into some definitions of a supermoon.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.