Everyone is buzzing about the total solar eclipse happening on August 21st. A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon is positioned between the Sun and Earth, blotting out the Sun’s rays. When we have solar eclipses, the Moon is always in its “New” phase (in fact, if you check your Farmers’ Almanac, you’ll see in the August 2017 calendar pages that the New Moon falls on August 21st, the same day as the eclipse).
But we’ve also heard this total solar eclipse referred to as a “Black Moon Eclipse.” What does that mean, and is it anything to be alarmed about?
The short answer is no. What’s happening is a completely natural — albeit somewhat rare — celestial occurrence. Here’s everything you need to know about this lunar phenomenon:
A New Moon Each Month
Every lunar month, which is about 29.5 days long, the Moon goes through phases, such as “full,” “first quarter,” etc.; one of these phases is the New Moon phase, called this because it marks the beginning of the lunar cycle. When we have a New Moon, the side of the Moon receiving sunlight is not facing us, so it’s “black” to us because we can’t see it. Usually we experience one new Moon in a calendar month, but because the calendar month and the lunar month aren’t completely in synch, we can have two new Moons falling within a given month, like we did last September 30th. This second New Moon occurrence is referred to as a “Black Moon.”
But to complicate matters, if there are four New Moons within a single season, the third of these is also called a Black Moon (you may remember we experienced something similar with the occurrence of “Blue Moons” in 2016). This is the Black Moon we’ll be experiencing.
Check your Almanacs — between the Summer Solstice (June 21st) and the Autumnal Equinox (September 22), the following four New Moons fall within the single summer season:
- June 23, 2017
- July 23, 2017
- August 21, 2017
- September 20, 2017
This means the August 21 New Moon is also considered a “Black Moon.” And the fact that it’s falling on the day of the total solar eclipse, it’s earned the ominous moniker of “Black Moon Eclipse.”
But while it sounds scary, there’s really no need to be worried, or change your plans for the Great American Solar Eclipse — despite doomsayer predictions, the world is not coming to an end because of a solar eclipse, or because of a “Black Moon,” or a combination of the two. It’s simply a celestial event that’s all about timing.