A moon at the new phase comes most nearly – for any particular month – to passing between the Earth and sun. Next new moon is May 25, 2017 at 19:44 UTC; translate to your time zone. This new moon will be 2017’s second supermoon, and the closest supermoon of 2017. You thought only full moons could be supermoons? Nope. The moon can come close to Earth at the new phase as well, and, at such times, the moon’s effect on earthly tides is particularly strong. Read more about the May 25 supermoon.
Modern techniques – telescopes, filters, photography – have made it possible to see the moon even at the instant it becomes new. That’s the case with Thierry Legault’s image, above, which he acquired in 2013. Read more about Thierry’s image here.
But – for most of us, on the day of new moon – unless we’re viewing an eclipse of the sun, we won’t see the new moon. That’s because a new moon rises when the sun rises. It sets when the sun sets. It crosses the sky with the sun during the day.
A new moon is too close to the sun’s glare to be visible with the eye.
And yet – although we won’t see it – the May 25, 2017 new moon will be the largest moon of this year. Sound paradoxical? It is, a bit. Here’s one way to think about it. If there were a total eclipse of the sun on May 25 (which there isn’t) – an event where the body of the moon passes in front of the sun – it would be a particularly long eclipse. That’s because the moon will be so close to us on that day and hence – although we won’t see it – so large in our sky.
It’s only as the moon moves in orbit, as its lighted hemisphere begins to come into view from Earth, that we can see it in our sky. Then we see the moon in the west after sunset as a slim waxing crescent – what some call a young moon.
Watch for the young moon to return later this week! And – because this new moon is a supermoon – watch for larger-than-usual tides to happen a day or so after new moon, say, around this weekend …
Also, this new moon is important to Muslim culture. When the young moon following this new moon returns to the evening sky, it’ll mark the beginning of Ramadan, which is the ninth month in the Muslim lunar calendar – the holiest month for Muslims – and a time of daylight fasting. In 2017, that young moon sighting is expected for May 27 or 28.
As the moon orbits Earth, it changes phase in an orderly way. Follow these links to understand the various phases of the moon.
Where’s the moon? Waxing crescent
Where’s the moon? First quarter
Where’s the moon? Waxing gibbous
What’s special about a full moon?
Where’s the moon? Waning gibbous
Where’s the moon? Last quarter
Where’s the moon? Waning crescent
Where’s the moon? New phase
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.