1st of 5 new supermoons in a row coming November 23

New supermoons happen when the moon is both new and closest to Earth that month. At new moon, the sun, Earth and moon are aligned in space, with the moon in the middle. The moon crosses the sky with the sun during the day. At such times, the moon’s night side – its darkened hemisphere – directly faces us. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

Starting on November 23, 2022, we will have five new supermoons in a row.

5 new supermoons in a row

According to astrophysicist Fred Espenak – formerly at the Goddard Space Flight Center and best known for his work on eclipse predictions – the November 23, 2022, new moon is the first in a series of five new moon supermoons in a row.

A new moon is a moon passing between Earth and the sun. And a new supermoon is an exceptionally close new moon. Fred Espenak’s new supermoon table gives us these values ​​– dates and moon distances – for new supermoons in 2022 and 2023. Contrast these moon distances to the average moon distance of 238,900 miles (384,472 km).

November 23, 2022: 227,522 miles (366,161 km)
December 23, 2022: 223,123 miles (359,083 km)
January 21, 2023: 221,562 miles (356,571 km)
February 20, 2023: 223,112 miles (359,065 km)
March 21, 2023: 227,408 miles (365,979 km)

We had five new supermoons in a row in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. We had three new supermoons in a row in 2021. Strictly speaking, we have four new supermoons in 2022, but they’re not in a row (two fell early in the year, and two are in November and December). And 2023 will have three new supermoons in a row (January, February, March … joining with those in late 2022 to make our current 5-in-a-row series.

Available now! 2023 EarthSky lunar calendar. A unique and beautiful poster-sized calendar showing phases of the moon every night of the year! Makes a great gift.

What are new supermoons?

It was the astrologer Richard Nolle who coined the term supermoon in 1979. He defines a supermoon as “a new or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (within 90% of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit.” By using this somewhat vague definition, we can say any new moon or full moon coming to within 224,000 miles (361,000 km) of our planet, as measured from the centers of the moon and Earth, counts as a supermoon.

In contrast to full supermoons, which draw a lot of attention and are very popular, new supermoons don’t attract much attention. That’s because you can’t see a new moon. A new moon is between the sun and Earth. It rises and sets with the sun and is lost in the sun’s glare all day. What’s more, the unlit side of a new moon faces Earth, while the lit side (as always) faces the sun. But you might see a very young moon in the western sky briefly after sunset on the evening following a new moon.

By the way, astronomers also use the term perigee new moon to describe a new moon at perigee, or closest to Earth. When we called them that, nobody paid much attention to them. Supermoon is much catchier!

The exceptionally close January 2023 new supermoon

The January 21, 2023, new supermoon will be the closest of the series of five new supermoons. It marks the year’s closest coincidence of a new moon with a lunar perigee, or the moon’s closest point to Earth for that month.

The new moon happens on January 21, 2023, at 20:53 UTC with the moon at 221,562 miles (356,571 km) from Earth.

And the lunar perigee occurs on January 21, 2023 at 20:58 UTC with the moon at 221,562 miles (356,570 km) from Earth.

According to Fred Espenak, the January 21 new supermoon falls during what he calls an ultimate new moon perigee. Fred Espenak defines an ultimate new moon perigee as when a new moon is less than or equal to 221,580 miles (356,600 km) from Earth. There are only two ultimate new moon perigees this century, according to Fred, and the first one happened on January 10, 2005.

A chart by Fred Espenak on this page indicates that the January 21, 2023, new moon supermoon is the last ultimate new moon perigee for this century.

In fact, the second one on January 21, 2023, is the closest and last ultimate new moon supermoon until December 14, 2145.

A smaller full moon superimposed on a larger very thin crescent moon.
This is a full moon, not a new moon, at apogee (farthest from Earth for the month, and so smaller than usual in our sky). It’s superimposed on a young crescent moon near perigee (closest to Earth for the month). The size difference between a moon at perigee and one at apogee is proportionally similar to that of a US quarter versus a US nickel. Composite image via Peter Lowenstein. Used with permission.

When you can see a new moon

To clarify, it’s not always true that you can’t see a new moon. At favorable times, you can view the new moon silhouette, for example, during a solar eclipse. When the new moon goes directly between the Earth and the sun, the result is either a total solar eclipse or an annular eclipse, in which a ring of sunshine surrounds the new moon silhouette. The new moon is closer to Earth during a total solar eclipse and further away from Earth during an annular eclipse.

Earth’s oceans feel new supermoons

And although, generally speaking, we can’t see a new moon, Earth’s oceans feel its impact. At new moon or full moon, the sun, Earth and moon align in space. The gravitational pull on Earth’s oceans is always greatest at such times. These are the spring tides, the highest (and lowest) tides coming twice each month (in contrast to the neap tides, when the variation between high and low tide is at its least, which happens around first and last quarter moon).

A new or full moon at perigee accentuates the spring tides. It creates what some call king tides, or exceptionally high tides, which are noticeable to those living along coastlines.

So, people living along the ocean shorelines might notice the variation in high and low tides for the coming months, around the dates of new moon: in 2022, November 23 and December 23; in 2023, January 21, February 20 and March 21.

One way or another, new supermoons have an impact, whether we see the moon on these days or not!

Bottom line: Starting November 23, 2022, we will have five new moon supermoons in a row. The January 21, 2023, new supermoon is the closest new moon until 2145.

Resources:

Moon at perigee and apogee: 2001 to 2100

Phases of the moon: 2001 to 2100

Four keys to understanding moon phases

Why no eclipse at every new moon?

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