Simulated image courtesy of Tom Ruen.

New Moon

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Moon feed

Objects: The Moon
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The sky at

The Moon will pass close to the Sun and become lost in the its glare for a few days.

The Moon's orbital motion carries it around the Earth once every four weeks, and as a result its phases cycle from new moon, through first quarter, full moon and last quarter, back to new moon once every 29.5 days.

This motion also means that the Moon travels more than 12° across the sky from one night to the next, causing it to rise and set nearly an hour later each day. More information about the Moon's phases is available here.

At new moon, the Earth, Moon and Sun all lie in a roughly straight line, with the Moon in the middle, appearing in front of the Sun's glare. In this configuration, we see almost exactly the opposite half of the Moon to that which is illuminated by the Sun, making it doubly unobservable because the side we see is unilluminated.

Observing the Moon in the days after new moon

Over coming days, the Moon will become visible in the late afternoon and dusk sky as a waxing crescent which sets soon after the Sun. By first quarter, in a week's time, it will be visible until around midnight.

A thin crescent

The months around the spring equinox – March and April in the northern hemisphere – present the best opportunity to see a very thin crescent Moon immediately after sunset in the days following new moon.

This comes about because the Moon appears higher in the dusk sky sooner after new moon in the spring months as compared to other times of year.

The inclination of the ecliptic to the horizon changes over the course of the year, affecting how high objects appear in the sky.

At all times, the Moon lies close to a line across the sky called the ecliptic, which is shown in yellow in the planetarium above. This line traces the path that the Sun takes through the zodiacal constellations every year, and shows the plane of the Earth's orbit around the Sun. Since all the planets circle the Sun in almost exactly the same plane, they too move across the sky following the same line.

When the Moon is widely separated from the Sun, it is separated from it along the line of the ecliptic. But, at different times of year, the ecliptic meets the horizon at different angles at sunset. This means that a certain number of days after new moon, the Moon appears at different altitudes above the horizon at different times of year.

At sunset, the ecliptic makes its steepest angle to the horizon at the spring equinox – in March in the northern hemisphere, and in September in the southern hemisphere. Conversely, it meets the horizon at its shallowest angle at the autumn equinox. And so, very thin crescent moons are most visible in the evening sky in the spring.

The inclination of the ecliptic plane to the horizon at Seattle varies between 65° (sunset at the spring equinox) and 18° (sunset at the autumn equinox). On November 30, the ecliptic is inclined at 28° to the western sunset horizon.

The exact moment of new moon

At the moment of closest approach, it will pass within 4°49' of the Sun, in the constellation Ophiuchus. The celestial coordinates of the Sun and Moon will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Angular Size
The Moon 16h28m20s 16°53'S Ophiuchus 32'29"
Sun (centre) 16h25m -21°39' Ophiuchus 32'26"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 08 December 2021
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

4-day old moon
Waxing Crescent


4 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 08:21 12:23 16:26
Venus 10:33 14:45 18:56
Moon 12:06 16:40 21:25
Mars 06:02 10:36 15:10
Jupiter 11:51 16:53 21:54
Saturn 11:09 15:46 20:23
All times shown in PST.


Never attempt to point a pair of binoculars or a telescope at an object close to the Sun. Doing so may result in immediate and permanent blindness.


The circumstances of this event were computed using the DE430 planetary ephemeris published by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

This event was automatically generated by searching the ephemeris for planetary alignments which are of interest to amateur astronomers, and the text above was generated based on an estimate of your location.

Related news

30 Nov 1978  –  New Moon
06 Dec 1978  –  Moon at First Quarter
14 Dec 1978  –  Full Moon
22 Dec 1978  –  Moon at Last Quarter

Image credit

Simulated image courtesy of Tom Ruen.






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