Will there be a new moon when we have the solar eclipse?

Dear Tom,

Will there be a new moon when we have the solar eclipse?

—Charles Arp, Brookfield

Dear Charles,

Yes, there will. A solar eclipse occurs when the new moon moves between the sun and the earth and the moon blocks out the solar rays, casting a shadow on portions of Earth. According to NASA, solar eclipses occur only if the moon is within 0.5 degrees of the plane of the ecliptic, a line passing through the center of the sun and the earth. The moon travels in an inclined orbit about 5 degrees from the ecliptic plane, and it passes directly through the plane twice each month at points called the ascending and descending nodes. A solar eclipse occurs only if the new moon phase passes near one of these nodes, explaining why there is not a solar eclipse with every new moon.