A 'black supermoon' will create perfect conditions for stargazing

If you love stargazing and live in the Western Hemisphere, you'll be spoiled this week as you'll get to experience a black supermoon, which will make stars visible against the dark sky. New moons take place every 29 days, and the second of two new moons in a calendar month is known as a black moon, although this is not an astronomical term.

Tall trees under the stars at night
The dark nights make conditions ideal for stargazing. Image: Adventure_Photo/Getty Images

The next new moon falls on 31 July or 1 August, depending on where you live. In the Western Hemisphere, it's the second of July's new moons, making it a black moon. In the Eastern Hemisphere, it’s the first of two August new moons, so the black moon will occur at the end of August there. There are two new moons in the same calendar month every 32 months. The new moon is also a supermoon, which means that it will be at its nearest point to Earth, known as the perigee.

A supermoon over a city at night.
There’s a black supermoon happening this week in the Western Hemisphere. Image: Wang Jun / EyeEm

While the moon appears significantly bigger and brighter than usual during a supermoon, nothing is visible from Earth during a new moon, because the moon is between the Earth and the sun and its illuminated side is facing away from us.  Even though you can't see a new moon as it travels across the sky with the sun during the day, the tidal influence of the extra-close new moon and sun can have real physical effects on water, where the variation in high and low tide is especially significant.

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The 'supermoon' rises at Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Image: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

The dark nights make conditions ideal for stargazing in the Western Hemisphere, and as the end of July is the peak time for the Southern Delta Aquarids meteor shower and the Perseids meteor shower also peaks in mid-August, stargazers are in for an interesting few weeks ahead.