Moon Phases | Phases, Eclipses & Supermoons – Moon: NASA Science (2024)


Moon Phases

In our entire solar system, the only object that shines with its own light is the Sun. That light always beams onto Earth and Moon from the direction of the Sun, illuminating half of our planet in its orbit and reflecting off the surface of the Moon to create moonlight.

Like Earth, the Moon has a day side and a night side, which change as the Moon rotates. The Sun always illuminates half of the Moon while the other half remains dark, but how much we are able to see of that illuminated half changes as the Moon travels through its orbit.

Current Moon Phase

The Phases

Let’s take a look at the individual phases, and how the movements of the Moon and Sun appear to us as we watch from the Northern Hemisphere on Earth:

  • Moon Phases | Phases, Eclipses & Supermoons – Moon: NASA Science (2)

    New Moon

    This is the invisible phase of the Moon, with the illuminated side of the Moon facing the Sun and the night side facing Earth. In this phase, the Moon is in the same part of the sky as the Sun and rises and sets with the Sun. Not only is the illuminated side facing away from the Earth, it’s also up during the day! Remember, in this phase, the Moon doesn’t usually pass directly between Earth and the Sun, due to the inclination of the Moon’s orbit. It only passes near the Sun from our perspective on Earth.

  • Moon Phases | Phases, Eclipses & Supermoons – Moon: NASA Science (3)

    Waxing Crescent

    This silver sliver of a Moon occurs when the illuminated half of the Moon faces mostly away from Earth, with only a tiny portion visible to us from our planet. It grows daily as the Moon’s orbit carries the Moon’s dayside farther into view. Every day, the Moon rises a little bit later.

  • Moon Phases | Phases, Eclipses & Supermoons – Moon: NASA Science (4)

    First Quarter

    The Moon is now a quarter of the way through its monthly journey and you see half of its illuminated side. People may casually call this a half moon, but remember, that’s not really what you’re witnessing in the sky. You’re seeing just a slice of the entire Moon ― half of the illuminated half. A first quarter moon rises around noon and sets around midnight. It’s high in the sky in the evening and makes for excellent viewing.

  • Moon Phases | Phases, Eclipses & Supermoons – Moon: NASA Science (5)

    Waxing Gibbous

    Now most of the Moon’s dayside has come into view, and the Moon appears brighter in the sky.

  • Moon Phases | Phases, Eclipses & Supermoons – Moon: NASA Science (6)

    Full Moon

    This is as close as we come to seeing the Sun’s illumination of the entire day side of the Moon (so, technically, this would be the real half moon). The Moon is opposite the Sun, as viewed from Earth, revealing the Moon’s dayside. A full moon rises around sunset and sets around sunrise. The Moon will appear full for a couple of days before it moves into…

  • Moon Phases | Phases, Eclipses & Supermoons – Moon: NASA Science (7)

    Waning Gibbous

    As the Moon begins its journey back toward the Sun, the opposite side of the Moon now reflects the Moon’s light. The lighted side appears to shrink, but the Moon’s orbit is simply carrying it out of view from our perspective. The Moon rises later and later each night.

  • Moon Phases | Phases, Eclipses & Supermoons – Moon: NASA Science (8)

    Last Quarter

    The Moon looks like it’s half illuminated from the perspective of Earth, but really you’re seeing half of the half of the Moon that’s illuminated by the Sun ― or a quarter. A last quarter moon, also known as a third quarter moon, rises around midnight and sets around noon.

  • Moon Phases | Phases, Eclipses & Supermoons – Moon: NASA Science (9)

    Waning Crescent

    The Moon is nearly back to the point in its orbit where its dayside directly faces the Sun, and all that we see from our perspective is a thin curve.

Our Wobbly Moon

Our Wobbly Moon

When we think of the way the Moon seems to change over the course of a month, we think of phases. But frequent Moon observers know that the Moon also appears to twist, nod, and roll slightly during its journey across the sky, allowing us to peek around the Moon's shoulder and catch glimpses of the farside. This phenomenon is called libration.

Because the Moon's orbit is not perfectly circular, its distance from Earth and its speed in orbit both change slightly throughout the month. The Moon’s rate of rotation around its own axis, though, always stays the same.

When the Moon is at its closest to Earth and moving most quickly along its orbital path, the Moon itself doesn’t rotate quite fast enough to keep entirely the same side facing us, and we get to see a little more of the eastern side of the Moon. When the Moon is farthest from Earth and orbiting at its slowest, its rotation gets a little ahead, and we see a bit more of its western side. We call this motion “libration in longitude.”

The 5 degree tilt of the Moon’s orbit also causes it to appear to nod, as though it were saying “yes.” The tilt sometimes brings the Moon above Earth’s northern hemisphere, and sometimes below Earth’s southern hemisphere, allowing us to see slightly more of the northern or southern hemispheres of the Moon. We call this motion “libration in latitude.”

Finally, the Moon appears to tilt back and forth like a metronome. The tilt of the Moon’s orbit contributes to this, but it’s mostly due to the tilt of our Earth. Earth has a tilt of 23.5 degrees on its axis, which means that when we observe the Moon from Earth, it’s a little like we’re standing sideways on a ramp. If you look left, the ramp slopes up. If you look right, the ramp slopes down. In front of you, the horizon looks higher on the right and lower on the left. If you turn around, the horizon appears to tilt the opposite way.

The tilted ramp works the same as the tilted “platform” of the Earth beneath our feet. Every two weeks, we have to look in the opposite direction to see the Moon, and the ground beneath our feet is then tilted the opposite way as well.



Moon Phases | Phases, Eclipses & Supermoons – Moon: NASA Science (10)

Sometimes, when the Moon is in one of its crescent phases, we can still see the darkened area of the Moon’s nearside shining dimly. This effect is caused by the Sun’s light reflecting off Earth’s surface onto the face of the Moon. Because Earth at that point in its orbit is nearly full from the Moon’s perspective, the light it reflects, called earthshine, is bright enough to dimly illuminate the darkened surface.

Daytime Moons

Daytime Moons

Though the Moon is often thought of as a nighttime visitor, it’s also visible during the day as a faint, pale presence. The best times to see a daytime Moon are perhaps during the first and last quarter phases, when the Moon is high enough above the horizon and at about 90 degrees from the Sun in the sky. This helps make the Sun’s reflected light bright enough to see as it reflects off of the Moon. The Moon can be seen in the daylit sky at any phase except for the new moon, when it’s invisible to us, and full moon, when it’s below the horizon during the day. The crescent through quarter phases are high in the sky during the day, but the daytime gibbous phases can be glimpsed only just before the Sun sets.

Do It Yourself

Do It Yourself

  • Moon Observation Journal

    Spend the next month getting to know the Moon and its phases by filling out your own observation journal.

  • Make a Moon Phases Calendar and Calculator

    Have you ever wondered when the next full moon will be? How about the first quarter moon? Put the dates and times for all the Moon's phases for the year at your fingertips by building your own Moon Phases Calendar and Calculator!

  • Moon Phases Activity

    Moon phases can be hard to visualize. This simple activity uses a lamp, styrofoam ball and pencil to show how phases work.

Moon Phases | Phases, Eclipses & Supermoons – Moon: NASA Science (2024)


What are the phases of the moon answers? ›

🌑 New: We cannot see the Moon when it is a new moon. 🌒 Waxing Crescent: In the Northern Hemisphere, we see the waxing crescent phase as a thin crescent of light on the right. 🌓 First Quarter: We see the first quarter phase as a half moon. 🌔 Waxing Gibbous: The waxing gibbous phase is between a half moon and full moon.

What are the 12 phases of the moon in order? ›

These eight phases are, in order, new Moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full Moon, waning gibbous, third quarter and waning crescent. The cycle repeats once a month (every 29.5 days).

Which moon phases are soulmates? ›

The trend claims to show if you're truly soulmates, by comparing and aligning the moon phase on the days you were both born. If both of your moon phases fit together and create a full moon, you are apparently soulmates.

What are the 8 phases of the moon type in your answers in this section? ›

The 8 moon phases in order are New moon, Waxing Crescent, First Quarter, Waxing Gibbous, Full moon, Waning Gibbous, Last Quarter, and finally Waning Crescent.

What are the 4 important moon phases? ›

There are four principal (primary, or major) lunar phases: the new moon, first quarter, full moon, and last quarter (also known as third or final quarter), when the Moon's ecliptic longitude is at an angle to the Sun (as viewed from the center of the Earth) of 0°, 90°, 180°, and 270° respectively.

What are the 4 major phases of the moon? ›

Each month, the Moon goes through its four phases: New Moon, First Quarter, Full Moon and Third Quarter. During Full Moon and New Moon, impressive lunar and solar eclipses can occur. Into the shadow: A lunar eclipse occurs when the Full Moon passes through the central shadow (the umbra) of the Earth.

How many hours does a lunar eclipse last? ›

Unlike solar eclipses, a total lunar eclipse lasts a few hours, with totality itself usually averaging anywhere from about 30 minutes to over an hour.

Which moon phase is rare? ›

Rather, a blue moon is special because it is the "extra" Moon in a season with four full moons. This usually only happens every two-and-a-half years. Since the 1940s, the term "blue moon" has also been used for the second full moon in a calendar month. This usually happens only every two-and-a-half years.

What moon is good for love? ›

The new moon is a great time to encourage beginnings, especially in love.

What moon cycle is best for marriage? ›

The ancient Greeks believed that marriages consummated during the full Moon were the most prosperous and happiest, but a waning Moon boded ill for wedded bliss. The full Moon is also considered to be an ideal time to accept a marriage proposal.

How long is a lunar month? ›

It takes 27 days, 7 hours, and 43 minutes for our Moon to complete one full orbit around Earth. This is called the sidereal month, and is measured by our Moon's position relative to distant “fixed” stars. However, it takes our Moon about 29.5 days to complete one cycle of phases (from new Moon to new Moon).

Why does the Moon look different every night? ›

The biggest clue to why the Moon always looks different when you look up at the sky is that it is constantly moving in relation to Earth and the Sun. It pops up in different places and at different times because it orbits the Earth.

What causes moon phases? ›

The phases of the Moon are caused by the changing positions of the Moon, Earth, and the Sun. As the Moon goes around the Earth, different parts of it are illuminated by the Sun.

What is the most popular moon phase? ›

Moon phase watch with crescent dial

The crescent dial moon phase watch is the most popular type of moon phase watch.

What is the Moon made of? ›

Nearly the entire Moon is covered by a rubble pile of charcoal-gray, powdery dust, and rocky debris called the lunar regolith. Beneath is a region of fractured bedrock referred to as the megaregolith. The light areas of the Moon are known as the highlands.

What are the 15 phases of the moon? ›

Moon Phases in Order
  • New Moon.
  • Waxing Crescent Moon.
  • First Quarter Moon.
  • Waxing Gibbous Moon.
  • Full Moon.
  • Waning Gibbous Moon.
  • Third Quarter Moon.
  • Waning Crescent Moon.

What are the 5 phases of the moon describe? ›

Moon Phases Names and Moon Phases in Order. There are eight total phases of the moon cycle, four primary and four secondary. The primary phases are the new moon, first quarter, full moon, and last quarter. The secondary phases are waxing crescent, waxing gibbous, waning crescent and waning gibbous.

What do the Moon phases mean? ›

Crescent refers to phases where the Moon is less than half-illuminated, while gibbous means more than half is illuminated. Waxing means “growing” or expanding in illumination, and waning means “shrinking” or decreasing in illumination.

What does the full moon mean spiritually? ›

Simply put, the stronger your connection to the full moon, the more your heart chakra is aligned. Your heart chakra is home to kindness and forgiveness. This means that a full moon is actually the perfect time to let go of negativity.

What is a wolf moon? ›

The full moon in January is traditionally known as the “Wolf” Moon. According to The Old Farmer's Almanac, the names for full moons come from a number of places, including Native American groups, colonial Americans or other traditional North American names passed down through generations.

How many years is 200 moons? ›

It has been 34 years since the film was released, though in the timeline of the series, “200 moons” have passed, or 16.66666 years, according to my calculator.

What time is the blood moon? ›

At 5:17 a.m. EST, the moon will fully enter the umbra — a state called “totality” — and the eerie red glow will linger through 6:42 a.m. EST.

What not to do during lunar eclipse? ›

What activities are prohibited during an eclipse? Drinking water, brushing teeth, combing hair, oil massage, using the washroom and engaging in sexual activities are not recommended during the lunar eclipse.

What are the 4 types of eclipses? ›

There are four types of solar eclipses: total, partial, hybrid, and annular. The type of eclipse that people get to see depends on how the Moon aligns with Earth and the Sun, and how far away the Moon is from Earth.

What does the Moon on your birthday mean? ›

So, if your birthday falls on or near a full moon, the sun will be transiting in your sign while the moon is moving through your opposite sign, “meaning that you may be pushed to seek balance between two opposing aspects of you or your life,” says Montúfar.

What are three interesting facts about the Moon phases? ›

1) There are 8 different phases that the moon goes through during a lunar cycle. 2) It takes about 29.5 days to go through all of the moon phases. 3) Different parts of the moon appear to be illuminated as it orbits the Earth, due to how the Sun's light is reflecting off of the moon.

What happens every 33 years? ›

Answer and Explanation: The lunar-solar cycle refers to the time it takes for the moon and sun to reach the same alignment they were when the cycle began. This takes approximately 33 years. It is a positional cycle based on the Earth's orbit around the sun and the moon's orbit around the Earth.

What is the Black Moon ritual? ›

In some aspects of paganism, particularly amongst Wiccans, the black moon is considered to be a special time when any rituals, spells, or other workings are considered to be more powerful and effective. Others believe rituals or workings should not be conducted at these times.

Which moon is the strongest? ›

As the Full Moon is energetically the strongest, it also brings out the strongest emotions.

What is soulmate moon? ›

The moon phase trend involves taking the phase of the moon on your and your love interest's birthdays, then combining them to see if they form a full moon. If they line up, you've found your soulmate, at least according to TikTok. If the moons don't align, then your relationship presumably won't last.

What does a moon do for woman? ›

The phases of the moon coincide with the phases of the menstrual cycle. Mental and hormonal states are under the influence of the Moon. Just as the Moon takes about 28 days to circle around to Earth, a woman's menstrual cycle is approximately 28 days.

Who is moon's favorite wife? ›

Rohini (रोहिणी) is a goddess in Hinduism and the favorite consort of Chandra, the moon god.

What month is the highest marriage? ›

According to a study by, 43% of 2022 weddings took place between September and November. October was the most popular month to get married in 2022, accounting for 20% of all weddings. Fall weddings have become even more popular over the last few years—a trend that will likely continue.

Which moon is best to manifest? ›

It is believed that just after the new Moon, on the third crescent day, of the new cycle towards the full Moon is the best time to set an intention. The best advice is to start small like a ripple on the surface of the ocean and carry it forward everyday incrementally.

What day is best to get married? ›

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are cited as better options: "Monday for wealth, Tuesday for health, Wednesday the best day of all, Thursday for losses, Friday for crosses, and Saturday no luck at all."

What's my lunar age? ›

What is my Chinese lunar age? If the Chinese new year has passed, you are your age + 2 , and if not, you are your age + 1 . Your Chinese lunar age depends on whether the Chinese New Year has passed or not, because your age depends on the new year in the Chinese lunar calendar (and not your actual date of birth).

What is the draconic period? ›

The draconitic period (also draconic period or nodal period), is the time that elapses between two passages of the object through its ascending node, the point of its orbit where it crosses the ecliptic from the southern to the northern hemisphere.

What is the lunar month called? ›

A lunar month, or a lunar cycle, is also known as a lunation. The astronomical term is a synodic month, from the Greek term synodos, meaning meeting or conjunction.

Why does the Moon not spin? ›

An enduring myth about the Moon is that it doesn't rotate. While it's true that the Moon keeps the same face to us, this only happens because the Moon rotates at the same rate as its orbital motion, a special case of tidal locking called synchronous rotation.

Does everyone see the same moon every night? ›

Yes, everyone sees the same phases of the Moon. People north and south of the equator do see the Moon's current phase from different angles, though. If you traveled to the other hemisphere, the Moon would be in the same phase as it is at home, but it would appear upside down compared to what you're used to!

What is it called when the Moon is not visible? ›

The new moon phase happens monthly when we can't see the moon and this is because of our view from Earth, as the moon orbits us. During the new moon phase the moon is between the sun and earth and the side that is lit is facing away.

What blocks the Moon when it's not full? ›

During a lunar eclipse, Earth comes between the Sun and the Moon, blocking the sunlight falling on the Moon. There are two kinds of lunar eclipses: A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon and Sun are on opposite sides of Earth. A partial lunar eclipse happens when only part of Earth's shadow covers the Moon.

What does it mean when the Moon is red? ›

During a lunar eclipse, the Moon turns red because the only sunlight reaching the Moon passes through Earth's atmosphere. The more dust or clouds in Earth's atmosphere during the eclipse, the redder the Moon will appear. It's as if all the world's sunrises and sunsets are projected onto the Moon.

What is a half moon called? ›

First Quarter: The First Quarter, or Half Moon, is the third phase in the cycle of phases. This Moon phase occurs once a month, rising around 12 PM, and setting around 12 AM, almost instantaneously becoming a Waxing Crescent.

What causes the phases of the moon answer? ›

The phases of the Moon, also called the Lunar phases, occur due to the Moon's revolution around the Earth. Due to the Moon's different positions around the Earth, we can see different sections of surface of the moon which are illuminated by the Sun, and which reflect the sunlight toward us.

What are the five phases of the moon explain? ›

Different Moon Phases

It appears to change shape depending on the position of the Earth and the sun. The moon orbits the Earth every 29.5 days. As it orbits the Earth, it appears to be getting bigger (waxing) or smaller (waning). There are five phases of the moon: new, crescent, quarter, gibbous and full.

What is the best explanation of moon phases? ›

The Moon doesn't emit (give off) light itself, the 'moonlight' we see is actually the Sun's light reflected off the lunar surface. So, as the Moon orbits the Earth, the Sun lights up different parts of it, making it seem as if the Moon is changing shape.

What causes lunar eclipse? ›

A Lunar eclipse occurs when the Sun casts Earth's shadow onto the Moon. For this to happen, the Earth must be physically between the Sun and Moon with all three bodies lying on the same plane of orbit. A lunar eclipse can only occur during a Full Moon and when the Moon passes through all or a portion of Earth's shadow.

What causes eclipses? ›

Sometimes when the Moon orbits Earth, the Moon moves between the Sun and Earth. When this happens, the Moon blocks the light of the Sun from reaching Earth. This causes an eclipse of the Sun, or a solar eclipse. During a solar eclipse, the Moon casts a shadow onto Earth.

What three things does the Moon phase depend on? ›

Moon phases are determined by the relative positions of the Moon, Earth, and Sun.

What is the difference between a crescent and gibbous? ›

A crescent moon is any time less than half the moon is lit by the sun. A crescent moon is going from the third to first quarter. A gibbous moon is any time more than half the moon is lit by the sun.

Which direction does the Moon come up? ›

The Moon rises in the east and sets in the west every day just like the Sun. The time that the Moon rises and sets changes throughout the month.

What are 5 facts about the Moon? ›

Top 10 Facts about The Moon
  • The Moon is Earth's only natural satellite. ...
  • It takes 27.3 days for the Moon to travel all the way around the Earth. ...
  • The Moon is a lot smaller than The Sun. ...
  • The Moon was made when a rock smashed into Earth. ...
  • The Moon controls the tides. ...
  • There is water on the Moon!
Feb 15, 2023

What is the 6 phase of the moon? ›

Waning Gibbous: The Waning Gibbous is the sixth phase in the cycle of phases. This Moon phase occurs once a month, rising around 9 PM, and setting around 9 AM, sticking around for approximately 7.38 days before going into the Third Quarter phase.

What would happen if there was no moon? ›

It is the pull of the Moon's gravity on the Earth that holds our planet in place. Without the Moon stabilising our tilt, it is possible that the Earth's tilt could vary wildly. It would move from no tilt (which means no seasons) to a large tilt (which means extreme weather and even ice ages).

Why does the Moon not rotate? ›

An enduring myth about the Moon is that it doesn't rotate. While it's true that the Moon keeps the same face to us, this only happens because the Moon rotates at the same rate as its orbital motion, a special case of tidal locking called synchronous rotation.


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