Today is the start of the Chinese New Year, an event that is determined by the cycles of the moon. The folks at Google decided to celebrate the occasion with a special Google doodle animation.
The Chinese lunar New Year begins with the second new moon after the winter solstice. This normally happens between mid-January and mid-February, so the New Year does not take place on a fixed date.
The celebratory Google doodle features an animated ram enjoying a fireworks display. Fireworks are a traditional part of Chinese New Year celebrations, and according to Chinese astrology, 2015 will be the year of the ram — or the goat, sheep the antelope or another horned animal, depending on who you ask. The Chinese word used to identify this animal — yáng — is generic, and can be interpreted differently, usually depending on the region where it is spoken.
To celebrate the New Year and the new moon, the Slooh Community Observatory will broadcast real-time views of the moon tonight (Thursday, Feb. 19). The webcast will begin at 8 p.m. EST (0100 UTC Friday, Feb. 20). The lunar broadcast will appear live at Slooh.com or check out the moon webcast on Space.com.
Each Chinese year is associated with one of 12 animals in the astrological zodiac. Chinese astrology says that people born in the year of the goat are reportedly very serene and calm, and therefore tend to have fewer health problems. However, most people born in the year of the goat are destined for unhappiness.
Previous space-themed Google doodles have included the Philae lander setting down on a comet, pioneering astronomer Annie Jump Cannon's birthday, and the Roswell "UFO" anniversary.