New Moon – the Invisible Phase
In modern astronomy, the New Moon is when the Sun and Moon are aligned, with the Sun and Earth on opposite sides of the Moon.
There are several reasons why it is impossible for us to see the New Moon in the sky.
The alignment of the Sun, the Moon, and Earth, leaves the side of the Moon that faces Earth in complete darkness. Technically, this is called a conjunction or Syzygy in the Sun-Earth-Moon system (see illustration).
In addition, the New Moon rises and sets around the same time as the Sun, bringing it too close to the Sun’s glare to be seen with the naked eye.
New Moon in Different Cultures
About a day after the New Moon conjunction, the Moon becomes visible again as a Waxing Crescent Moon.
The initial period, as only the thinnest sliver of a Crescent Moon becomes visible, used to be called New Moon while the darkest phase was called Dark Moon.
This traditional definition of New Moon is still in use in some cultures, defining the beginning of the months in the Islamic calendar.
As New Moon nights are dark, they are often the best time to view other celestial objects like planets, meteor showers, and deep sky objects such as star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies.
Higher Tides at New Moon
The greatest difference between high and low tide is around New Moon and Full Moon. During these Moon phases, the gravitational forces of the Moon and the Sun combine to pull the ocean’s water in the same direction. These tides are known as spring tides or king tides.
Sun Lights Up the Moon
The Moon does not radiate its own light, but the Moon’s surface reflects the Sun’s rays. Half of the Moon’s surface is always lit up by sunlight, except during lunar eclipses when Earth casts its shadow on the Moon. Just how much of that light we can see from our point of view on Earth varies every day, and this is what we call a Moon phase.
Primary Moon Phase
In Western Culture, we divide the lunar month into 4 primary and 4 intermediate Moon phases.
The New Moon is the 1st primary Moon phase. The next 3 are the First Quarter Moon (Half Moon), the Full Moon, and the Third Quarter Moon.
In addition, there are 4 intermediate Moon phases; the Waxing Crescent Moon, the Waxing Gibbous Moon, the Waning Gibbous Moon, and the Waning Crescent Moon.