On Friday, September 30, 2016, the Western Hemisphere will be treated to one of the rarest celestial phenomena: a black moon. Luckily for the Eastern Hemisphere, the black moon will rise later next month - and just so happens to coincide with Halloween. So-called “black moons” only occur every nineteen years or so, when the month of February happens to skip a full moon. The term is a bit of a misnomer - a black moon is actually just the second occurrence of a new moon, when the Earth completely obscures the Sun’s light from the Moon.
Despite being a fairly regular phenomenon, some doomsday enthusiasts have taken to the Internet to proclaim this rare lunar phenomenon as a herald of an oncoming apocalypse. According to the British tabloid Express, one Facebook user who follows their page believes the black moon to be the return of Christ:
Those signs are letting us know that Jesus is soon coming. We are approaching the end of our world and the end of life on Earth for all human being. Every day, we have to come closer to our saviour Jesus Christ. For none can escape for what is coming for the Earth.
These claims aren’t entirely unfounded; after all, there are a few Biblical passages that foresee the end of days with a blackening of the sky or celestial objects (as well as, you know, the other stuff). In Celtic Pagan traditions meanwhile, the black moon is believed to imbue extra magical powers into the spiritual world, weakening barriers between our reality and other magical dimensions.
If you’re hoping to get out and catch a glimpse of the rare black moon, be warned: often the moon is completely invisible to the naked eye. A moonless sky is still pretty cool though, right?