What is a 'black moon'?
While rare and unusual celestial events are generally a good reminder to get outside and look up into the heavens, the one happening July 31 isn’t exactly a showstopper.
In fact, good luck seeing anything at all.
Tonight, North America will be treated to a “black moon,” the rare second occurrence of a new moon in a single calendar month. New moons, or dark moons, are when the side of the moon lit up by the sun is facing away from Earth, making it nearly invisible to the naked eye. These generally happen only once during the moon’s 29.5-day lunar cycle around the Earth. Roughly every 2.5 years, however, a single month features two new moons, with the second instance known as a “black moon.” The last one was in 2016.
To think of it another way, a “black moon” is the opposite of a “blue moon,” or the instance of a second full moon in one month.
Don’t shrug this off just yet
Right now, you’re probably thinking this is all a terrible bore. But wait! While the black moon lacks the stop-and-stare awe of other lunar events like the blood moon, harvest moon, or super moon, it more than makes up for it by inspiring a host of entertaining crackpot conspiracy theories. Just take a look at this fantastic headline courtesy of the UK Express from 2016:
In addition to serving as a sign of the apocalypse, black moons are also interpreted by astrologists as a positive source of energy.
“Traditionally, Black Moon’s are ultra feminine and represent a time of great awakening and clarity,” writes Tanaaz on the site Forever Conscious. “Black Moon’s are extremely powerful and often indicate a sharp turning point in a cycle.”
According to pagan witchcraft, black moons increase the power of certain rituals. “New ventures that are blessed and begin on a Black Moon are said to have special energy to succeed,” shares the site Springwolf Reflections. “And new relationships should utilize the energy of the Black Moon to plan their future.”
For those in the Southern Hemisphere and elsewhere in the world wondering when they’ll get their own opportunity to celebrate the black moon, you’ll get your turn on Aug. 30.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information since it was first published in September 2016.
What is a ‘black moon’?
Gather your friends, look up into the sky, and get ready to witness absolutely nothing.