New moon is July 20, 2020

New moons generally can’t be seen. They cross the sky with the sun during the day. This month’s new moon happens on July 20 at 17:32 UTC.

Extremely thin, threadlike crescent against blue background.

Youngest possible lunar crescent, with the moon’s age being exactly zero when this photo was taken – at the instant of new moon – 07:14 UTC on July 8, 2013. Image by Thierry Legault.

When the moon is new, it’s most nearly between the Earth and sun for any particular month. There’s a new moon about once a month, because the moon takes about a month to orbit Earth. Most of the time, the new moon passes not in front of the sun, but simply near it in our sky. That’s why, in most months, there’s no solar eclipse. In June 2020, however, the moon will pass dead-on in front of the sun, causing an annular – or ring – solar eclipse. Read more about the solar eclipse here.

Annular solar eclipse.

View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Annular solar eclipse of December 26, 2019. Alexander Krivenyshev of the website caught it at Al Hofuf, Saudi Arabia. Thank you, Alexander! Read more about the June 21, 2020 annular solar eclipse.

The photo of a new moon at the top of this page shows the moon as it passed near the sun on July 8, 2013. There was no eclipse that day; it was an ordinary new moon.

New moons typically can’t be seen, or at least they can’t without special equipment and a lot of moon-photography experience. Thierry Legault was able to catch the photo at top – the moon at the instant it was new – because the moon that month passed to one side of the sun, and the faintest of lunar crescents was visible.

Either way – in front of the sun or just near it – on the day of new moon, the moon travels across the sky with the sun during the day, hidden in the sun’s glare.

Some people use the term new moon for a thin crescent moon visible in the west after sunset. You always see these little crescents – which set shortly after the sun – a day or two after each month’s new moon. Astronomers don’t call these little crescent moons new moons, however. In the language of astronomy, this slim crescent is called a young moon.

The June 2020 young moon will sweep from the twin stars Castor and Pollux toward Regulus in the few days following new moon.

Positions of young moon relative to Castor, Pollux, and Regulus.

The young moon and stars in June, 2020. Beginning around June 22, watch day by day for a wider waxing crescent moon to be higher up at sunset, and to stay out longer after sundown.

New moons, and young moons, are fascinating to many. The Farmer’s Almanac, for example, still offers information on gardening by the moon. And many cultures have holidays based on moon phases.

Bottom line: New moons generally can’t be seen. They cross the sky with the sun during the day. This month’s new moon happens on July 20 at 17:32 UTC. Afterward – beginning around July 21 – the moon will return to the evening sky.

Read more: What’s the youngest moon you can see?

Read more: Top 4 keys to understanding moon phases

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Deborah Byrd