January 21st will mark the first new moon of the year and the occurrence of a “supermoon.” This phenomenon occurs when the moon is at its closest point to the Earth.
The supermoon will be the closest the moon has been to the Earth for the past 992 years, and it will take another 345 years for it to come this close again.
The anticipated celestial event will also signal the Lunar New Year, also commonly known as the Chinese New Year. According to the Chinese zodiac, this will be the Year of the Rabbit.
“A ‘supermoon’ occurs when a new moon coincides with the moon’s closest approach to Earth in its elliptical orbit, a point known as perigee,” according to NASA.
“During every 27-day orbit around Earth, the moon reaches both its perigee, about 226,000 miles (363,300 km) from Earth, and its farthest point, or apogee, about 251,000 miles (405,500 km) from Earth,” the space agency also says.
On January 21, 2023, the moon is projected to be exactly 221,561 miles (356,568 km) from the Earth. This is the closest the moon has been to our planet since the year 1030 during the medieval period.
Supermoons occur about three or four times a year, but this particular occurrence is notable for its close proximity to Earth. “Supermoon” is not an official astronomical term, but it is frequently used to describe “a full [or new] moon that comes within at least 90 percent of perigee.”
A supermoon can appear up to seventeen percent larger and thirty percent brighter than the moon at its farthest point from the Earth in orbit. The difference is usually not very perceptible to the human eye, but the closer proximity of this celestial body does affect the Earth by sometimes causing higher tides than usual.
Chinese New Year
This weekend will also mark the beginning of the Chinese New Year. The year 2023 is the Year of the Water Rabbit, the fourth in the twelve-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac. The year 2022 marked the Year of the Tiger.
The new year will be celebrated widely in China and East Asia as well as by many members of the Chinese diaspora. Lion and dragon dances are perhaps the most iconic elements of these celebrations, but temple fairs, flower market shopping, and ancestor worship are also commonly practiced customs.
Celebrations associated with the Chinese New Year have also become popular outside of Asia. Earlier this week, the Athens Conservatory welcomed fifteen young musicians from Greece and China for a “Concert of Young Chinese and Greek Musicians for the Spring Festival.”