A New Moon graces the night skies every 29.5 days, which is the lenght of the lunar cycle. During this time, the Moon goes through its eight lunar phases, including the Full Moon and Waxing Crescent Moon. However, unlike the other phases, the lunar disc is not visible to the unaided eye during a New Moon.
The US space agency NASA said: “Our Moon doesn’t shine, it reflects. Just like daytime on Earth, sunlight illuminates the Moon.”
But the Moon and Earth are in constant motion and we do not always see the Moon.
When sunlight lands on the Moon’s far side – from our point of view on Earth – the Moon appears to dissappear from sight.
This stage of the lunar cycle is known as the New Moon.
When sunlight fully illuminates the Moon’s Earth-facing side, we observe a Full Moon.
The Full Moon marks the midway point of the monthly cycle.
The lunar phases, in order, are: New Moon, Waxing Crescent, First Quarter, Waxing Gibbous, Full Moon, Waning Gibbous, Third Quarter and Waning Crescent.
And on top of the 19.5-day cycle, the Moon takes about 27.3 days to complete a lap around our planet.
Our Moon doesn’t shine, it reflects
When is the August New Moon?
Although the New Moon cannot be generally seen, you might still want to mark its date in your calendar.
This year, the August New Moon is expected to fall on the wee morning hours of Wednesday, August 19.
According to Deborah Byrd of EarthSky.org, the New Moon will peak at about 3.41am BST (2.41am UTC) here in the UK.
Ms Byrd said: “New Moons typically can’t be seen, or at least they can’t without special equipment and a lot of Moon-photography experience.”
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Why does the New Moon vanish from sight?
The New Moon cannot be seen because the Moon positions itself inbetween the Sun and our planet.
But the Moon does not position itself directly in front of the Sun but, rather, is very near it.
This causes direct sunlight to illuminate the Moon’s far side.
But if the Moon happens to cross paths with the Sun directly, we witness a solar eclipse.
NASA said: “From the persepective of a solar eclipse, the New Moon phase is important.
“It’s the point in the Moon’s orbit when it passes between Esarth and the Sun.
“A total solar eclipse can only happen at a New Moon, and only when the other types of movement line up as well.”
And although New Moons happen every month, eclipses are much less frequent because the Moon’s orbit is tilted by about five degress from Earth’s orbit of the Sun and they only align every few months.
NASA said: “The moon’s orbital nodes drift over time, which is why a single location on Earth’s surface might wait hundreds of years between total eclipses.”
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