At the end of the month, a "rare" black moon will grace our skies -- although no one without a telescope will be able to see it -- for the first time since 2014 and will, for a few who have interpreted a few Christian Bible verses as prophecies pertaining to an actual black moon and those who believe them, herald the end of the world as well as the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. But there are those who look at the black moon as just another new moon and find all the doomsday talk just a lot of needless fear-mongering regarding a natural celestial occurrence.
As the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday, a second new moon within the calendar month, given the dark and portentous moniker "black moon," will occur this month. In fact, the so-called black moon will ride the night-time skies on September 30, the month's last calendar day. But only some parts of the world will "witness" it, because the new moon will only be present in the Western Hemisphere and parts of western Europe and western Africa. And by "witness," it should be noted that, being a new moon, the non-reflective side of the moon faces the viewer and, therefore, renders it invisible to the casual observer (hence the designation "black moon").
So what is so special about a black moon? Why is it being targeted as a harbinger of the end of the world? Some would point to its rarity, although since a black moon occurs on average once every five years, it could be pointed out that the occurrences aren't that rare. Still, they are more rare than a "blue moon," which is, according to Space.com, the appearance of a second full moon in a calendar month. Such celestial presentations occur on an average of once every three years.
What really sets the black moon apart is its interpreted connection to Christian biblical prophecy, as some doomsday predictions on social media have pointed out.
Religious doomsayers, such as the website Signs of the End Times, point to various verses of the Christian Bible, like Matthew 24:29, as indicated by the End Times, or the period around the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the Christian messiah, and the so-called end of the world. The verse reads, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken."
Signs of the End Times then goes on to quote a couple of verses from The Gospel According to Luke, then tie them into the apocryphal prognostications of the Book of Revelation.
Chapter 24 of The Gospel According to Matthew is also home to the famed lines (per Bible Study Tools) concerning "wars and rumors of wars" and the rise of false prophets near the time of the return of the Christian messiah. The passage -- and its broad generalizations -- has been used by doomsday criers for two millennia to predict the end of the world.
The black moon reference ("the moon shall not give her light") becomes important to conspiracy theorists due to its connection to the "sun be darkened" phrase, which theorists say came to pass at the beginning of the month of September when there was a solar eclipse that produced a "ring of fire" after the moon passed in front of the sun for viewers in Africa.
The moon plays an important role in several End Times predictions, the black moon version being just the latest. As the Inquisitr reported in April, evangelical preachers John Hagee of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, and Mark Blitz of El Shaddai Ministry in Tacoma, Washington, warned Christian believers that a tetrad of blood moons was auguring the End Times and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
But not all Christians have been swept up in the rapture of a Second Coming or even seeing the black moon as anything other than a celestial event. Marshall Connolly of Catholic Online uses the event to coyly argue both sides of the issue, writing that "nobody really knows" whether the second new moon is a sign of the end of the world. "Scientists think is isn't," he continued, "and Friday is an ordinary night, just like any other. As Catholics, we are taught to always be prepared because we know not the hour. There's probably no need to cancel your weekend plans, but a visit to the parish church never hurts!"
Ian O'Neill, astrophysicist and the senior producer for space at Discovery News and Seeker, told the L.A. Times that the black moon is neither all that rare, nor is it a predictor of a coming biblical apocalypse. In all his research, begun when he read about the coming end of the world in the British paper Express, he could find nothing particularly rare or special about a black moon. It was still the same moon going through one of its phases; it just so happened that it was one of two new moons occurring in the month of September.
In fact, as far as lunar terminology is concerned, NASA does not even recognize a black moon. It's just a regular new moon phase that has been granted pop culture status.
With that being said, the natural extension of such regularity in the orbit and observance of the moon is that there should be no reason to place any particular apocalyptic weight on the black moon occurrence.
O'Neill says that "supermoon" and "blood moon" appearances have been given a great deal of attention in the media, especially through social media. He notes that it should be no surprise that a black moon be given its due.
"When you have anything that's the least bit foreboding in the night sky, the media jumps on it," he said. "Social media has a huge part to play. These things go viral."
And they do. The term "black moon" has trended on Facebook for the past few days.
[Featured Image by Albert Barr/Shutterstock]