A Black Moon and Earthshine

Tomorrow night, April 30, 2022, there will be a Black Moon. It won’t look different, in fact, it won’t look like anything at all since a Black Moon is a name for a second New Moon in a single calendar month.

Full and New Moons can occur at different times because of time zone differences. It can even be in a different month. 

Black Moons may hold special significance to people who practice certain forms of Pagan religions and who believe certain actions become more potent when performed on the night of a Black Moon.

There was no New Moon in February this year which only happens about once every 19 years. There will be no Blue Moon in New York in 2022. That is a third Full Moon in a season with four Full Moons.

A sliver of a Waning Crescent Moon

The Waning Crescent Moon is the final stage of the lunar cycle and it begins when the sun illuminates less than half of the moon. This phase continues until the New Moon phase. This phase “ends” when the Moon and the Sun both rise at the same time, which starts the lunar cycle over again with the New Moon.

During this time, you can see the effect of “Earthshine.” It’s a matter of perspective. The Moon is always half-illuminated by sunlight just like Earth. A crescent Moon seen in the west after sunset or in the east before dawn is a sliver of the Moon’s lighted half.

When we see a crescent moon, that means that a nearly “Full Earth” appears in the Moon’s night sky. The full Earth illuminates the lunar landscape and that ic “Earthshine” – light from the nearly full Earth shining on the Moon.

Looking at Earth from the perspective of the far side of the Moon || Photo: Chinese Chang’e 5 T1 spacecraft

No New Moon in February

first crescent
First crescent New Moon

There was no New Moon in February. This happens (or is it that it doesn’t happen?) about once every 19 years. It only happens in February, as this is the only month that is shorter than a lunar month. When that happens, January and March have two New Moons, instead of just one. The New Moons on January 31 and March 31 are both considered Black Moons.

That term is used in several ways. It commonly is used to refer to a second New Moon in the same month. Those occur about once every 29 months. Time zones mess around with Moon phases. This year, Los Angeles has a Black Moon in March, while New York has a Black Moon in April.

The Black Moon is not the same as the Dark Moon. That is the last visible crescent of a waning Moon and in the Chinese calendar, it marks the beginning of the month.

When there is a third New Moon in a season of four New Moons, that is also called a Black Moon. Usually, each season has three months and three New Moons. When a season has four New Moons, the third New Moon is called a Black Moon and when there are four Full Moons it is called a Blue Moon.

The original meaning of the term New Moon is the first visible crescent of the Moon after conjunction with the Sun. (shown above) This is a thin waxing crescent and it is briefly and faintly visible as the Moon gets lower in the western sky after sunset.

The first crescent marks the beginning of the month in the Islamic calendar and some lunisolar calendars, such as the Hebrew calendar.

There is a longtime belief in many cultures that rituals performed at the time of the Full Moon and New Moon were more powerful. Neopagan and witchcraft systems such as Wicca follow this belief. Farmers once believed  (and might still believe) that planting during certain Moon phases will increase harvests.

 

The Moon Hoax of 1835

Yesterday, I wrote about how our Moon is wobbling and it is affecting coastal flooding. It might have sounded like a hoax, but it is true. However, there was a big Moon hoax that started on August 25, 1835. The Sun newspaper in New York City printed a series of articles describing scientific findings about the Moon. They said the information came from the Edinburgh Journal of Science. The information was recounted by Dr. Andrew Grant, a colleague of the famous astronomer Sir John Herschel.

The articles described the flora and fauna of the moon, the beings that lived there and the temples where they lived. Those lunar folks were said to “average four feet in height, were covered, except on the face, with short and glossy copper-colored hair, and had wings composed of a thin membrane, without hair, lying snugly on their backs.”  All of this information was seen by an observatory at the Cape of Good Hope.

Of course, it was all a lie. No Dr. Grant, no observatory, no beings. But people believed this. Surprising? Well, people believed Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio broadcast about a hundred years later and thought aliens had landed in New Jersey. You don’t expect to read satire or find hoaxes in a newspaper or hear them on radio. People today sometimes see a tweet or link to a story from the satiric The Onion and react or pass it on as true.

Copies of the The Sun sold out and the series was getting reprinted all over the country and the world. The man behind all this was Richard Adams Locke, an editor at The Sun.  He claimed for a while that he hadn’t intended for anyone to believe the tales and that when he wanted to go public with the hoax  but the owner of the paper wouldn’t do it and it was many years before this ridiculous fake news was fully debunked. I suspect people had sopped believing it long before that, but who knows for sure.Edgar Allen Poe claimed the idea was plagiarized from a satire he’d written just a few weeks earlier about a man who made his way to the moon by hot air balloon.


You can listen to a two-part podcast about the Moon hoax here

Part 2

A Year’s Weather Predicted by Twelve Days of January

Whatever the weather is like the first twelve days of January is supposed to indicate what the weather will be like for the next 12 solar months. Each day equals one month in succession. So, January 6 would predict June’s weather. This is one weather lore predictor that is quite extreme and wholly unscientific – but perhaps fun.

Of course, January would have been the time to pay attention, so I guess I should repost this in January 2022, but you can find your local weather history online since I doubt that anyone recalls what the weather was like in January. You can find information at sites like weather.com

For New Jersey, I went to njweather.org for a recap on this past January’s weather just to see if there was any correlation to this month. I also looked at  accuweather.com which told me that on January 6 it was a high of 43 and a low of 32 degrees. That is a normal range for a Jersey January and June was an average Jersey June – which means days in the 70s, 80s and the 90s. It’s a mixed month.

I don’t really think of weather in collective terms like months or even the year. I am more likely to remark about or remember a week. “It was a rainy week.” 
 

Though I occasionally write here about weather lore, I don’t take it very seriously. It is fun and sometimes it happens to match the actual weather, which is why these kinds of beliefs linger on. 

A snowy February is supposed to bring a good spring and a mild month means stormy weather for the new season. Compare that to prognosticating groundhogs and other critters.

In any season, a ring around the Moon is supposed to mean precipitation is coming.

If the Moon shows a silver shield, be not afraid to reap your field. I’m not sure what a silver shield on the Moon means – and I have no fields to harvest – so that one I can ignore. 

The Full Moon Moves Through a Shadow

eclipse

I watched some of today’s Full Moon plus lunar eclipse, but I watched it online.  The event received the usual media blitz and it was being called a Super Flower Blood Full Moon with a total lunar eclipse. That’s a lot of adjectives for one Moon day.

I read about it last month and made a draft post to remind me to write something about it but that fancy name sort of turned me off.

The May Full Moon is often called the Flower Moon for obvious blooming reasons. “Blood Moon” is a non-astronomical term for when lunar eclipses make the Moon appear a reddish color. “Super” Moons, as I have written before, is when this natural satellite approaches Earth at its closest possible distance. That happened in April too.

The eclipse is a real astronomical event and was visible for those living in western North America, western South America, eastern Asia, and Oceania.

It may have looked reddish. There may be flowers blooming where you live. It probably won’t look any bigger tonight to you. But there was an eclipse.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon moves into the Earth’s shadow which occurs only when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are exactly or very closely aligned (in syzygy) with our planet between the other two, and only on the night of a full moon.

According to Wikipedia, there are several cultures that have or had myths related to lunar eclipses. It may be seen as a good or bad omen. The Egyptian, Chinese, and Mayan traditions once viewed the Moon as being swallowed by some creature. The Ancient Greeks correctly believed the Earth was round and so saw the shadow from the lunar eclipse as evidence of that. Some Hindus believe in the importance of bathing in the Ganges River following an eclipse because it will help to achieve salvation.

Eclipse or not, this Flower Moon is called by the Cree people the Budding Moon or Leaf Budding Moon, and for the Dakota and Lakota people, this is the Planting Moon.

More Moon Mythology

I continue to collect mythology, folktales, legends and lore about our Moon.

Mt. Sinai was probably originally named after the Chaldean Moon god Sinn.

The name Mount St. Helens means “Moon Mountain.”

Arabs called white horses “Moon colored.”

It was said in Wales that if you moved from one house to another during the Crescent Moon you would have lots of prosperity in your life.

The word “create” comes from the same word root as the word “crescent.”

The natives of Madagascar call their home the Island of the Moon.

To aim at or “shoot for the Moon” means to be very ambitious and to set your sights extremely high.