How Moon Phases The Moon
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Phases of the Moon

As our moon travels through space orbiting our planet, we see it in its different phases at different times and if you mouseover the graphic small moons arranged around the earth in the picture below left you will get an explanation for what you see in the box on the right....

Thanks to Pete Lawrence for the
lunar images

Moon Phases and Time of Day

Phase Rises In Eastern Sky Highest In Western Sky Sets
New ~sunrise morning noon aftermoon ~sunset
Waxing Crescent just after sunrise morning just after noon aftermoon just after sunset
First Quarter ~noon afternoon ~sunset night(pm) ~midnight
Waxing Gibbous afternoon ~sunset night(pm) ~midnight night(am)
Full ~sunset night(pm) ~midnight night(am) ~sunrise
Waning Gibbous night(pm) ~midnight night(am) ~sunrise morning
Third Quarter ~midnight night(am) ~sunrise morning noon
Waning Crescent just before sunrise morning just before noon aftermoon just before sunset
Waning Crescent KEY: times in grey indicate that the moon is not visible

When is the Moon Visible

Many people seem to expect that the moon rises at night and sets before daylight - perhaps a hangover from all those pictures in our children's story books where the moon is always there at night and never in the day!

The table above shows how the moon phases cycle in time as well as illumination for the surface of the moon.

Tracking these changes can be an exciting and interesting project to set in school.

There is a lot of interest in discovering just how soon we can see the new crescent moon - some very experienced observers can see the moon within 24 hours of it being new, but care must be taken as the new moon is so close to the sun that all the usual caveats and warnings for observing (or more to the point, NOT observing) the sun apply here as well.

"I like to think that the moon is there even if I am not looking at it"
Albert Einstein

"Every one is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody"
Mark Twain

"When a finger points to the moon, the imbecile looks at the finger"
Chinese Proverb

"May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night and a smooth road all the way to your door."
Irish Blessing

"When the moon is not full, the stars shine more brightly"

" How like a queen comes forth the lonely Moon From the slow opening curtains of the clouds Walking in beauty to her midnight throne!
George Croley