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Waning Cresent

NASA Explains Phases of the Moon

NASA Explains Phases of the Moon

Phases of the Moon

A waxing crescent moon is far enough away from that Earth-sun line to be visible near the sun’s glare – that is, in the west after sunset. This moon phase is seen one day to several days after new moon. On these days, the moon rises one hour to several hours behind the sun and follows the sun across the sky during the day.

As shown in the above picture, the new moon occurs when the moon is positioned between the earth and sun. The three objects are in approximate alignment. The entire illuminated portion of the moon is on the back side of the moon, the half that we cannot see.

Last quarter moon comes about three weeks after new moon. Now, as seen from above, the moon in its orbit around Earth is at right angles to a line between the Earth and sun. The moon is now three-quarters of the way around in its orbit of Earth, as measured from one new moon to the next.

Still, it’s good to recall that the illuminated portion of a first quarter moon truly is just a quarter. On the night of first quarter moon, we see half the moon’s day side, or a true quarter of the moon. Another lighted quarter of the moon shines just as brightly in the direction opposite Earth!

The moon is past full now. Once again, it appears less than full but more than half lighted. If it rises late at night, you know the waning gibbous moon must set after sunrise.

This moon phase comes between one and two weeks after new moon. People sometimes see a waxing gibbous moon in the afternoon, shortly after moonrise, while it’s ascending in the east as the sun is descending in the west. It’s easy to see a waxing gibbous moon in the daytime because, at this phase of the moon, a large fraction of the moon’s day side is facing our way.

A  full moonis the lunar phase that occurs when the Moon is completely illuminated as seen from the Earth. This occurs when the moon is in opposition to the Sun.

New Moon

Full Moon

Each morning before dawn, because the moon is moving eastward in orbit around Earth, the moon appears closer to the sunrise glare. We see less and less of the moon’s day side, and thus the crescent in the east before dawn appears thinner each day.

First Quarter

Last Quarter

Waning Cresent

Waxing Gibbous

Waning Gibbous


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