Today is the first quarter Moon phase. It is a term that confused me as a child when I first started to pay attention to the night sky. The First Quarter Moon is also called, somewhat illogically, the Half Moon because the Sun’s rays illuminate exactly 50% of the Moon’s surface.
At the First Quarter in the Northern Hemisphere, the right half of the Moon is lit up, as shown below. In the Southern Hemishere, the left half is illuminated and near the Equator, the upper part is bright after moonrise, and the lower part is bright before moonset.
As Juliet told Romeo, “O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon, That monthly changes in her circled orb.”
You know that ocean tides on Earth are mostly generated by the Moon’s gravitational pull. The largest tidal range is around Full Moon and New Moon when the Moon and the Sun’s gravitational forces combine to pull the ocean’s water in the same direction. These tides are known as spring tides or king tides. And with today’s First Quarter and again at the Third Quarter, the Moon and Sun pull in different directions, producing the smallest difference between high and low tide. These are known as neaps or neap tide.
The Full Moon last week was called a “supermoon” because it was closer to Earth and so looked a bit larger. Tonight is the New Moon – the “invisible” Moon – and some people have given this one the name “Micromoon.” Both terms are not scientific or official and only came into being in recent times.
A Micromoon is when a Full Moon or a New Moon coincides with apogee, the point in the Moon’s orbit farthest away from Earth. I have also seen it called Minimoon or Apogee Moon. It is considered to be “micro” Full Moon or New Moon when the Moon’s center is farther than 405,000 kilometers (ca. 251,655 miles) from the center of Earth.
Will it really look different? A Full Micro Moon will look approximately 14% smaller than a Supermoon and the illuminated area appears 30% smaller, so it might look a little less bright. Of course, a Micro New Moon – like all New Moons – is not lit for us to see, so it being farther away will not have any effect on what we see – or more accurately, don’t see.
Even unseen, the New Moon still affects tides which shows the greatest difference between high and low tides around a Full Moon and a New Moon. Micromoons mean a smaller variation of about 5 cm (2 inches).
Moon lore suggests that Full Moons, New Moons, Micromoons, and Supermoons affect human mental health. It was also believed that they also could create natural disasters, such as earthquakes, because of the pull of the Moon and Sun in the way that it affects tides. No scientific evidence supports these kinds of correlations.
A lunar eclipse is set to occur on May 15 and 16 and it will be a Supermoon and it will likely have a bit of a reddish color (“Blood Moon”. Supermoons are Full Moon that seems to be bigger than usual. The red comes from particles in the Earth’s atmosphere changing the color of the reflected light.
According to NASA, the eastern half of the United States and all of South America will have the opportunity to see every stage of the lunar eclipse. Totality will be visible in much of Africa, western Europe, Central and South America, and most of North America. A second lunar eclipse will take place on November 8.
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.
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.
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.
Besides extreme heat this summer and wildfires, American coastlines have been facing increasing high tide floods. On that last item, NASA says this is due to a “wobble” in the moon’s orbit working in tandem with climate change-fueled rising sea levels.
Since not all have been reading the journal Nature Climate Change, I’ll fill you in on what NASA and the University of Hawaii reported: upcoming changes in the moon’s orbit could lead to record flooding on Earth in the next decade.
Get ready because flooding in American coastal cities could be a lot worse in the 2030s, which is when the next moon “wobble” is expected to begin. This flooding can cause significant damage to infrastructure and even displace communities.