The new moon occurs on March 21, at 13:23 p.m. EST (1723 GMT), in New York, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory (opens in new tab). A day later the thin, waxing crescent moon will make a close approach to Jupiter, with the pair visible just as the sun sets. This new moon occurs a day after the spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere and the autumn equinox in the Southern Hemisphere.
A new moon happens when the moon is between the sun and Earth. The two bodies also share the same celestial longitude, a projection of the Earth's own longitude lines on the celestial sphere, an alignment called a conjunction. Since the illuminated side of the moon is facing away from us, unless there is an eclipse — the moon passing directly in front of the sun — one can't see a new moon. (The next one isn't until April 20 of this year).
Timing of new moons — and other lunar phases — is the same over the entire Earth, with the differences being a result of one's time zone, or more strictly speaking, longitude. While the new moon occurs in New York in the afternoon, in Melbourne, Australia it is on March 22 at 4:23 a.m. local time, reflecting the 16-hour time difference.
Related: What is the moon phase today? Lunar phases 2023
Looking for a telescope to observe the moon or anything else in the sky? We recommend the Celestron Astro Fi 102 (opens in new tab) as the top pick in our best beginner's telescope guide. Don't forget a moon filter!
New moons are notable for being the first days of lunar calendars. The Hebrew, Muslim, and Chinese lunar calendars all reckon the first days of their months from the approximate date of the new moon. In the Islamic tradition this is often the first day a crescent moon is visible after a new moon – hence the importance of the crescent moon in Islamic iconography.
The March new moon has a particular significance because it is the beginning of the month of Nisan, which is the first month of the Hebrew calendar. While many Jewish people would say the new year is in the autumn (when the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur occur), the month of Nisan is the beginning of the ecclesiastical year; Rosh Hashanah as the New Year celebration dates from sometime in the first or second century CE — there is some debate about the exact origins of Rosh Hashanah as the new year in Judaism.
In the Islamic calendar, the March new moon is the transition between the months of Shaban and Ramadan. While the new moon occurs on March 21, the first day of Ramadan isn't until March 22, because the Islamic calendar traditionally depended on an actual visual observation of the moon. In the past, the official start of a month could be delayed by cloudy weather preventing such an observation. Many Islamic polities solved this problem by using a tabular calendar (essentially a "rules based" system). Ramadan is a month of fasting during the daylight hours in commemoration of God's revelations to Muhammed.
On March 22, the day after the new moon, a day-old crescent will make a close pass to Jupiter at 4:21 p.m. Eastern Time, passing as close as 28 arcminutes to the planet as seen from New York City – less than a single lunar diameter. The moon will set at 8:29 p.m. local time, almost due west, and Jupiter sets at 8:17 p.m. The sun, however, sets at 7:10 p.m., meaning the moon will only be about 12 degrees above the horizon at sunset. While it is possible to spot even a thin crescent moon during the day, it is very dangerous to attempt to spot any celestial object in close proximity to the sun; it's best to wait until the sun is below the horizon. But under the right conditions one will spot Jupiter below the moon, whose "horns" will be pointing away from the sun, roughly upwards.
In Miami, moonset is at 8:45 p.m. and Jupiter sets at 8:34 p.m. (as the city is a bit west of New York, even though it is still in the Eastern time zone). In Honolulu, the close approach happens in the morning, at 10:21 a.m. local time, and the moon sets a bit earlier, at 8:06 p.m., while Jupiter sets at 7:42 p.m.
In the Southern Hemisphere the moon sets first – the sky looks "upside down" from their perspective. From Cape Town, the sun sets at 6:53 p.m. local time, and at that point the moon will be about 7 degrees above the western horizon and Jupiter about a degree above it and to right.
Mercury will be lost in the solar glare (from New York it is only three and a half degrees high at sunset, which occurs at 7:08 on March 21); while Venus will be visible in the west soon after sunset; in New York City the planet sets at about 10:01 p.m. on March 21. Mars, meanwhile, will be high in the southwest, at an altitude of about 72 degrees by 8 p.m. New York time. Saturn is a predawn object, rising ahead of the sun at 5:53 a.m. March 21; the sun comes up at 6:58 a.m.
Stars and constellations
For Northern Hemisphere sky watchers, by about 8 p.m. Orion will be high in the southwest. Look for the three stars of Orion's Belt, which from left to right are Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka. From a dark sky location one can see the sword of Orion, a small line of faint stars, and in it a nebula, M-42, known as the Orion Nebula, a region where stars are born. Below and to the right of Orion's sword is the bright, blue-white star Rigel, and to the left is the fainter star Saiph. These stars mark Orion's feet. If one looks to the left of Saiph, one sees the single brightest star in the sky, Sirius, the "alpha star" of the Big Dog, Canis Major. Away from city lights one can catch sight of Lepus, the hare, just below Orion. Above Sirius is another bright blue-white star, Procyon, otherwise known as Alpha Canis Minoris.
At about 9 p.m. the Big Dipper is in the northeast, with the "bowl" facing north, and the "handle" pointing to the horizon. The two stars at one end of the Dipper are Alpha and Beta Ursae Majoris, respectively called Dubhe and Merak. Those point to Polaris, the North Star. Using those same "pointers" one can go in the opposite direction, and find Leo, the Lion, which will be in the east. The two stars at the back of the bowl point to the star Regulus, the brightest star in Leo. Below Regulus, towards the eastern horizon one finds Denebola, the second brightest star in Leo that marks the Lion's tail.
As the night progresses observers can watch Virgo rise by about 10 p.m. By 10:30 p.m. Virgo's brightest star, Spica, is just high enough to see, about 15 degrees above the horizon. The Big Dipper can help here; using the handle one can "arc to Arcturus" by drawing a sweeping arc to Arcturus, an orange-yellow star in Boötes, the herdsman, and then keep going to reach Spica.
In the Southern hemisphere's mid-latitudes, one sees Crux, the Southern Cross, and Alpha Centauri, in the southeast by 8:00 p.m. The Cross is a small grouping of stars, and the brightest one, called Acrux marks the bottom of the cross. To the right is Gacrux, the top, and below them is Mimosa, which is the left side of the crossbeam. From Mimosa, going down, one encounters Hadar, also known as Agena, the second-brightest star in Centaurus, the Centaur. Below Hadar and to the right is Alpha Centauri, or Rigil Kentaurus.
If one looks up towards the zenith, one encounters the three constellations that make up Argo, the ship: Puppis the deck, Vela the sail, and Carina the keel. Even if one can't see the Milky Way because of city lights, the "clustering" of relatively bright stars in the region is noticeable. Canopus, the brightest star in Carina, is quite high at this point, about 70 degrees high. Canopus is known for being one of the most luminous stars in the cosmic neighborhood. It is 310 light-years away and magnitude -0.76, making it some 10,000 times as bright as the sun, according to observations by the European Southern Observatory (opens in new tab).
Looking to the southwest — about halfway down the sky from Canopus — one can see Achernar, the brightest star in Eridanus the River, which winds around the sky towards the northwest, where it ends near Rigel, in Orion.
Editor's Note: If you snap an amazing picture of the new moon (or other objects during the new moon) and would like to share it with Space.com's readers, send your photos, comments, and your name and location to email@example.com.
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