Millions of people, especially in Islamic nations, make a regular deliberate attempt to view the slender crescent moon. That's the purpose of minarets! Muslims regard it auspiciously because it begins their month with religious significance. Others simply like how it looks.
A bit of clarification should be thrown in, though. Strictly speaking, a New Moon is invisible, because it displays only its dark side - and also it sits near the sun, lost in glare. But in popular speech, many define "New Moon" as the hair-thin crescent first seen some 16 to 40 hours after astronomical New Moon.
Join the New Moon adventure by looking for it during the middle of this coming week, and observing how the crescent displays this season's unique orientation of floating on its back like a smile - instead of being sideways like an archer's bow, the way it looks the entire rest of the year. Start by peeking low above the sunset point on Wednesday the 25th. Next evening, Thursday the 26th, the crescent is fatter and higher. That night we'll be running a special program at Mohonk Mountain House to celebrate phenomena associated with the crescent moon - especially with dazzling Venus floating just above it. The whole thing culminates explosively on Friday, when the pair hover close together.
Check out the eerie glow on the moon's dark side. This coming Wednesday and Thursday will be the best times to see that obvious display of Earthshine. Our world is a giant mirror with a 38 percent reflectivity that bounces sunlight to the moon - clearly seen on the large region unlit by direct sunshine.
Yes, there's something special about that first sight of the New Moon. It goes deeper even than the passion of poets and the vows of sweethearts and the lunatic baying of wolves. It's an apparition braided into our genes, woven back through time to when the first semi-humans glimpsed it each and every month of their lives. No wonder it gives us a strangely familiar thrill - an echo of ancient things felt but no longer remembered. Without even intending to, we find ourselves answering with our own oath to the New Moon: that we will remain bonded and intertwined forever.