If you’ve heard rumors of an impending “black moon,” don’t be alarmed—the term simply refers to the second new moon in one month (it’s similar to a blue moon, which is the second full moon in one month). A new moon occurs when the half of the moon illuminated by the sun faces away from the Earth, making it invisible in the dark sky. That means there’s actually no “black moon” to see, but the absence of the moon will make it a great night for stargazing.
“While the moon itself is an interesting object to observe, the moon reflects lots of sunlight and generally makes the night sky brighter,” says Jonathan Kemp, a telescope specialist at Middlebury College Observatory. “Without the moon being visible in the night sky, stargazers can enjoy darker skies and see fainter celestial objects than they might normally observe.”
If you’re planning on partaking in the stargazing—whether with a telescope, binoculars, or an unaided eye—the new moon technically happens at 8:11 p.m. Eastern time. And if you’re thinking about making other plans, take note: a black moon only occurs about every 2.7 years.