Tuesday, April 5, 2016, 12:43 PM - Earth won't be seeing much of the Moon on April 7, but its influence will certainly be felt, as the closest new moon of 2016 brings King Tides to Canada's coastlines.
Night by night this week, the Moon is becoming a thinner and thinner sliver in our night skies, until it disappears from view on April 7 - lost in the daytime sunlight, in its "new" phase. At the same time, the Moon is drawing closer and closer, so that by just before noon EDT on that day, it will reach its closest distance to Earth since the September 27 Super Moon Eclipse, resulting in the closest "perigee new moon" of 2016.
When this happens, the stronger gravitational pull from the Moon on Earth's oceans will cause one of the largest tidal variations of the year, known as the King Tides.
While tides vary greatly based on the location, the most extreme tides in Canada will be seen in Bay of Fundy, between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. With the highest tides in the world, on an average day the Bay of Fundy sees a range from around 2 metres at low tide to around 15 or 16 metres during high tide - a difference of around 13-14 metres. On Thursday and Friday, low tide will drop to less than 1 metre and high tide will rise to over 17 metres - a difference of over 16 metres, or high enough to flood a 4 or 5 storey building!
What is going on behind King Tides?
Tides are a regular fact of life for Canada's coastal regions. The waters along our shores advance and retreat twice every day, swelling even higher and dropping even lower twice every month, and there's even a cycle to them that requires a yearly calendar to track.
King Tides are exceptional tides - the highest and lowest tides, resulting in the largest tidal variation of the year - which happen roughly twice every year.
So, what goes into making the King Tides? It's the gravitational "dance" of the Earth, the Moon and the Sun.
As the Moon orbits around the Earth, the planet and everything on its surface feels a varying amount of pull due to the Moon's gravity - stronger on the side facing the Moon and weaker on the side opposite to the Moon. This is a fairly weak effect when compared to the gravitational pull of the Earth, especially on the small-scale, so we barely notice it and it has a minuscule effect on petty much everything else around us. When you apply this pull across larger scales, such as the diameter of the Earth, however, and have it acting upon the kilometres-deep fluid filling Earth's oceans, the collective effect of the Moon's gravity on all of those individual water molecules adds up.
Mark your calendars! The April 2016 sky will host a meteor shower Lyrids offering spectacular sights. In addition, mercury will be at greatest eastern elongation this month. Here is a guide to the major sky events occurring in the fourth month of this year.
New Moon: According to Seasky.org, the New Moon will rise on April 7, Thursday. The phenomena will reach its peak at 11:24 UTC. During this time of the month, the moon remains invisible and the sky remains dark. Thus, it is the best time to observe the other celestial objects in the sky.
Full Moon: As for the Full Moon, it emerges on April 22, Friday. During this time of the month, the moon is brightest as it is placed opposite Earth as the Sun. The phenomena peaks at 5:24 UTC. The April Full Moon is also known as Full Pink Moon, the Growing Moon and the Egg Moon.
Lyrids Meteor Shower: Astronomy enthusiasts and sky gazers can look forward to witnessing Lyrids Meteor shower on April 22 and April 23. According to Time and Date, Lyrids run from April 16 to April 25 and it will peak after the midnight and before the dawn.
The Lyrids is one of the oldest known meteor showers that originates from the debris of comet Thatcher. It has derived its name from the constellation named Lyra and its radiant point lies close to the star Vega.
As noted by the website, residents residing in Northern and Southern Hemisphere will be able to witness the meteor shower. They will be able to spot the shooting stars towards the East in the sky.
No special equipment is required to witness the phenomena. However, it is advised that the sky gazers must watch the spectacular sight from a dark location that is away from the city lights. Lyrids is an average meteor shower, producing 20 meteors when at its peak. So stargazers might have to wait longer before they can spot falling stars.
Mercury at greatest elongation east: On April 18, mercury will reach greatest eastern elongation and it is said to be the best time to observe the planet that is placed well in the evening sky. During greatest elongation, the distance between the planet and Sun reduces from Earth. Since mercury is at greatest eastern elongation, it will be visible after sunset.
Some other planets that are placed well in the April sky to be observed are Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars.
It's been a banner year for celestial events so far, and Earth Day (aka Friday, April 22, or today) is getting in on the fun with a full moon. But this isn't just any full moon — it's a mini-moon. Besides, "Awww, how cute!" you may be thinking, "What is a mini-moon, exactly?" Here are a few things to know about this intergalactic phenomenon.
Let's start with the definition. A mini-moon, also known as a micro-moon or apogee moon, occurs when there is a full moon or a new moon at the same time the moon is approaching its apogee. The apogee, as it were, is the point the moon's orbit is farthest away from the Earth. (Fun fact: The point closest to the Earth is called the perigee.) If you think about that for a minute, the name of this special moon makes sense — it looks smaller, or mini, because it is further away. In fact, it looks 14 percent smaller! It may also appear dimmer, since the part of the moon that is illuminated looks approximately 30 percent smaller. Of course, it's all just a big planetary prank — some celestial slight of hand, if you will. Why? Because a mini-moon is no smaller than any other full moon; it is the same size, just further away.
According to Earthsky.org, each year has a closest full moon and a farthest full moon, or mini-moon. And each mini-moon returns roughly one month and 18 days later each year. If you do the math, that means the mini-moon in 2017 will fall on June 9. This year's mini-moon lies around 30,000 miles farther from Earth than it will during 2016's closest full moon (or supermoon), which occurs on November 14. For the record, the moon's mean distance from Earth is typically about 238,855 miles away. The mini-moon, meanwhile, is around 250,000 miles away. November's supermoon? Only 221,524, making it the closest the moon has been to the Earth thus far in the 21st century. It won't swing back around and grace us with its presence that closely again until Nov. 25, 2034.
What's even more spectacular about this particularly mini-moon is that it also happens to be a pink moon. While you may be imagining an Elle-Woods-style, hot-pink-hued orb bedazzling the solar system, the name is a bit of a misnomer — the pink moon won't actually be pink. Rather, each full moon has nicknames derived from Native American folklore. April's full moon, or the Pink Moon, stems from one of the first plants to flower each year: the Pink Phlox. According to the Farmer's Almanac, it is known in some cultures as the Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and the Fish Moon; it earned the latter name because it coincided with the time of year shad swam upstream.
At this point, you're probably wondering about your best bet to see this abnormally-small sucker. Technically, it actually rose last night around 1:30 in the morn. However, full moons are visible for about three days, so you'll still be able to enjoy the Pink, mini-moon tonight. If you'd rather take in the celestial event from the comfort of your couch, you can watch it via livestream video. But, c'mon, bruh. It's Earth Day — get outside and be one with the Earth and its smaller-than-normal full moon.
when it's there. Earth's only natural satellite hovers above us bright and round until it seemingly disappears for a few nights. The rhythm of the moon's phases has guided humanity for millennia — for instance, calendar months are roughly equal to the time it takes to go from one full moon to the next.
Moon phases and the moon's orbit are mysteries to many. For example, the moon always shows us the same face. That happens because it takes 27.3 days both to rotate on its axis and to orbit Earth. We see either the full moon, half moon or no moon (new moon) because the moon reflects sunlight. How much of it we see depends on the moon's position in relation to Earth and the sun
The moon's gravity pulls at the Earth, causing predictable rises and falls in sea levels known as tides. To a much smaller extent, tides also occur in lakes, the atmosphere, and within Earth's crust.
High tides are when water bulges upward, and low tides are when water drops down. High tide results on the side of the Earth nearest the moon due to gravity, and it also happens on the side farthest from the moon due to the inertia of water. Low tides occur between these two humps.
The pull of the moon is also slowing the Earth's rotation, an effect known as tidal braking, which increases the length of our day by 2.3 milliseconds per century. The energy that Earth loses is picked up by the moon, increasing its distance from the Earth, which means the moon gets farther away by 3.8 centimeters annually.
Updated for 9/30: Friday's sky (Sept. 30) is host to a somewhat unusual lunar event in the Western Hemisphere: a second new moon in a single month, which some people call a "Black Moon."
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While a full moon refers to the moment when the moon's Earth-facing side is fully illuminated by sunlight, a new moon refers to the moment when the moon's Earth-facing side is fully in shadow. (Unfortunately, that means the Black Moon will be more or less invisible, even if the moon is high in the sky).
The lunar calendar almost lines up with Earth's calendar year, so there is typically one full moon and one new moon each month. A second full moon in a single calendar month is sometimes called a "Blue Moon." A Black Moon is supposedly the flip side of a Blue Moon: the second new moon in a single calendar month. The next Black Moon takes place on Sept. 30 (in the Western Hemisphere).
A Black Moon (in some parts of the world)
From the Western Hemisphere, the new moon occurring on Friday, Sept. 30, is a Black Moon. Officially, it occurs at 8:11 p.m. Eastern Time (5:11 p.m. Pacific Time).
For the Eastern Hemisphere (Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia), this new moon occurs after midnight on the calendar date of Oct. 1. So for this part of the world, this particular new moon is not the second one in the calendar month, but rather, the first! So it does not qualify as a Black Moon, and that hemisphere will have to wait until the end of the month for theirs. Indeed, for the billions living in the Eastern Hemisphere, the Black Moon will arrive on Oct. 30 or, if you live in eastern Asia, Japan, Australia or New Zealand, not until Oct. 31 (Halloween).
The Black Moon is a somewhat unusual celestial event — they occur about once every 32 months.
Slooh Community Observatory will host a webcast Monday, Oct. 3 at 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT) to show live views of the young moon, viewable on their website and also on Space.com. The webcast will feature discussion with special guests including Slooh's spiritual correspondent Helen Avery, who will discuss the Black Moon's significance to pagan religion, and there will also be a discussion of how to define the Black Moon when dealing with multiple time zones.
Seeing (or not seeing) a Black Moon
At its "new moon" phase, the moon is always black. It happens at that time of the month when the moon passes through the same part of the sky as the sun and as such, the moon's dark or unilluminated side faces Earth. So there really is nothing to see.
Actually, that's not always true, since there are times when the new moon passes directly between Earth and the sun and Earthlings can then see the moon's black silhouette crossing in front of the sun, causing a solar eclipse. That, in fact, actually happened with this month's first new moon, on Sept. 1, creating an annular eclipse (also known as a "Ring of Fire Eclipse") over parts of Africa.
Wait for the crescent
If you have ever wondered where the term "new moon" originated, it simply refers to the start of a new lunar cycle. The time frame from one new moon to the next is called a synodic month, which, on average, lasts 29.53 days. This is the period of the moon's phases, because the moon's appearance depends on the position of the moon with respect to the sun as seen from the Earth. The word "synodic" is derived from the Greek word sunodikos, which means "meeting," for at new moon, the moon "meets" the sun.
But unlike a "supernoon" which gets countless numbers of people scurrying for vantage points to see a slightly larger and slightly brighter-than-average full moon, with a Black Moon, you simply can't see it. In my opinion, this is the chief reason why Black Moon is going to have a tough time in becoming a popular media brand.
A couple of evenings later, however, on Oct. 2, you'll be able to pick out a slender sliver of a waxing crescent moon low in the western twilight sky about 30 or 40 minutes after sunset local time. That will also mark the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year 5777. And the following day (Oct. 3) is the Islamic New Year 1438, on the first day of Muharram, the first month in the lunar Islamic calendar.
Some people mistakenly refer to the appearance of any thin lunar crescent as the "new moon." This fallacy has even spread into popular literature. In his classic work "A Night to Remember," about the sinking of the Titanic, author Walter Lord quotes a fireman in a lifeboat who caught sight of a narrow crescent low in the dawn sky and exclaimed, "A new moon!"