Whether you’re an astronomer who’s interested in space from a scientific point of view, an astrologist looking for spiritual meaning, or simply a stargazer, the moon has fascinated many for centuries. You have likely heard of a “blood moon” or “blue moon”, but even some of the most dedicated moon followers may not have heard of a third type: the black moon.
What is this ominous sounding moon?
A “Black Moon” is not an astronomy term, nor is it particularly widely known among those who follow folklore. It has, however, gained some popularity in recent years thanks to social media, astrologers, and followers of the Wiccan religion [1,2].
The actual definition of this moon is not precise, and there are multiple ways it can occur. Typically, a black moon is associated with any of the following events associated with a New Moon:
- The second moon in the same month. These are the most common black moons, and occur once every 29 months. It is similar to a blue moon, which has become a common term for the second full moon in a month.
- The third new moon in a season with four new moons. These moons occur about once every 33 months. Each season (winter, spring, summer, fall) typically has three months and three new moons. Occasionally a season will have four new moons, and when this happens the third new moon is referred to as a black moon.
- There is no new moon in February. This occurs about once every 19 years. Since February is the only month that is shorter than a lunar month, it is the only month in which this type of black moon can happen. January and March will have two new moons as opposed to one when this occurs.
- There is no full moon in February. This also occurs about once every 19 years, when instead of having a full moon in February, there are two full moons in January and two in March [1,2].
What Does a Black Moon Look Like?
While the term black moon does sound very exciting, it actually describes a moon that you cannot see at all. Like all new moons, a black moon will cross the sky with the sun during the day, making it invisible amidst the sun’s glare.
During a full moon, the sun and moon are on opposite sides of the sky, so the sun illuminates the entire disk of the moon, however during a new moon, the moon is lined up between the earth and the sun, so it is not reflecting any light. This makes it seem to disappear from the night sky- it is there, we just can’t see it .
What is the Significance of a Black Moon?
Scientifically, a black moon doesn’t hold much significance beyond what a normal new moon would. During a new moon phase, the gravitational pull between the sun and the moon create the stronger tides that occur during that time. The same thing also happens during a full moon phase.
This influence becomes even stronger during a “supermoon”, which is when the moon is closest to the earth during its orbit during a new moon phase. This makes the high tides a little higher than usual and the low tides a little lower than usual. This is sometimes referred to as spring tides, although they actually have nothing to do with the spring season.
If you are an avid star gazer, however, a black moon may be an exciting time for you, since a dark, moonless sky makes the stars appear much brighter. This is the perfect time to look for constellations .
The black moon does, however, hold some significance for individuals who follow certain Pagan religions, because they believe certain actions carry more weight when performed during their appearance .
Those who follow astronomy believe that a new moon gives you a burst of energy, making it the ideal time to work hard and apply yourself fully to whatever you are working on. The belief is that the hard work you put in during a new moon phase will reward you throughout the full moon period .
When Will the Next Black Moon Occur?
When the next one occurs all depends on the type of moon:
Second new moon – occurred in the same month was July 31, 2019, so the next black moon of this genre will likely occur in 2022.
No new moon – occurred in February was in 2014, so the next time we have a black moon by this definition will be in 2033.
No full moon – occurred in February was in 2018, so the next black moon like this will be in 2037.
It is important to remember that the occurrence of these moons is dependent on time zones, so they may not always happen all over the world. For example, the one expected to occur in 2022 will be occurring in western parts of the United States, but not in Europe or Australia.
The next black moon that is expected to occur is coming up very soon, on August 18, 2020. This type will be the third new moon in a season with four new moons .