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SkyWatcher Alert: Have you heard about the Black Moon?

Black Moon, New Moon...what's the difference?

New Albany, MS– By now you may have heard or read some of the media hype about tonight’s “Black Moon.” In its rush to make everything special and give everything its own minute of fame (the 15 minutes we used to be promised is no longer possible), there have been more words than are merited written about tonight’s “rare astronomical event.”

Unless you are a Wiccan, you probably don’t care much about this. Most folks never heard of a black moon, and for pretty good reason. Most of those who care about this term agree the term black moon refers to the second new moon in a calendar month. (Not to be confused with the second full moon in a month, otherwise known as a blue moon.) Technically, it’s somewhat rare, but not very meaningful. The last black moon was in March 2014 and the next one after tonight’s will be in 2019.

There is a new moon about every 29.5 days. It just so happens that, at least in the Western Hemisphere, this will occur on the first and the last days of September. The new moons of September 2016 are no closer together or more spectacular than any other–it just happens that they hit twice in one calendar month.

Most of the time, the new moon is practically invisible, anyway, because it occurs when the moon is between the earth and the sun, with its illuminated side facing away from us.

Pathway that will provide the best view of the 2017 solar eclipse.

Pathway that will provide the best view of the 2017 solar eclipse.

If you’re still interested in observing this almost non-phenomenon, it will officially occur tonight, Friday September 30th, at 7:11 PM New Albany time. If you do choose to go out and look up, you may be rewarded with a somewhat improved view of the normal planets and constellations, but that is because the sky is its darkest at the new moon. If it’s too cloudy to see anything…try again in 29.5 days.

If you are interested in something that really is worth putting on your calendar, mark August 21,  2017 in big red letters. A full solar eclipse will occur, and New Albany should have a fair view of it because we are pretty close to the pathway that will have the best view of the full eclipse. Perhaps you have some nearby friends or relatives who live in the pathway that you’ve been meaning to visit.

Happy sky watching!

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