Tonight’s new moon may be invisible, but that doesn’t make it any less significant.
It’s not often that we get excited about a new one moon from a skywatching perspective, given that you can’t see anything from the vantage point to Earth. (New moons occur when the illuminated half of the moon faces away from us, so that we see nothing but darkness.) But tonight’s new moon is a particularly special one.
It is the closest new moon to Earth since the year 1030. At 3:54 p.m. EST (2054 GMT), the moon will be exactly 221,561 miles (356,568 km) away from our planet, according to Timeanddate.com (opens in a new tab)who sifted through data from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to determine the distances of each Earth-Moon gap for hundreds of years.
Related: What is the moon phase today? Moon phases 2023
Because the Moon’s orbit is not perfectly circular but elliptical, its distance from Earth is constantly changing. The next time the new moon is this close will be on 20 January 2368 – and that moon will actually be 9 km closer than this one. By comparison, the Moon’s average distance is 238,855 miles (384,400 km) away.
If this moon were a full moon, we would consider it one super moon, which occurs when the moon is near perigee, or its closest point to Earth during its orbit, and therefore appears larger and brighter in the sky. But since it is a new moon, the sky will be completely dark. But the tides will still be affected by this “invisible” supermoon – Earth will experience a king tide, or special high tide, sometime around this date.
But this moon is special for another reason; it marks the Lunar New Year, a major festival celebrated across Asia, especially in China. This year is the Year of the Rabbit, according to the Chinese zodiac, a 12-year cycle where each year is represented by a different animal. Across Asia and in Asian communities around the world, friends and family will gather over good food and good laughs, with lots of luck to go around.
If you don’t have all the equipment you need to see the night sky up close during the new moon, our guides to the best telescopes and binoculars are a great place to start. If you want to take the best pictures you can of the night sky, check out our guides on the best cameras for astrophotography and the best lenses for astrophotography.