There are times when you see a full moon in the sky and there are times when it’s incomplete. Every now and then, there’s no moon in the sky too. And while, as a child, you might have had theories about the moon being swallowed, you now know that it’s just the different moon phases.
If you’re looking for some information on the topic, we’ve got it all nicely summed up here.
Ready? Let’s get started…
Phases of the Moon: Short Summary
There are eight different moon phases and in each, you see the moon a little more. It starts at the new moon when there’s nothing to see in the night sky and goes all the way to what is called a waning crescent which is when the moon is in the shape of the thinnest crescent. The phases, in the order of their appearance, are as follows.
- New Moon
- Waxing Crescent
- First Quarter
- Waxing Gibbous
- Full Moon
- Waning Gibbous
- Third Quarter
- Waning Crescent
What’s Happening Up There?
As we all know, the moon reflects the light it gets from the sun. Without the brightest star, our one and only natural satellite won’t have any light at all. So, the moonlight in all poetry and rom-coms is nothing but just reflected sunlight.
It’s a lot more pleasant though; one would have to agree.
So, half of the moon that’s facing the sun gets lit. And just like the Earth, the moon also has a dark side.
But on some nights the moon seems to be shrinking, while on some nights it seems to be growing. There is a point between these two phases when the moon is full and at a different point in the cycle, there is no moon at all. The latter is called the new moon and that’s where the cycle begins.
This is when we don’t see the moon in the night sky. At all.
This is the second phase where you see a little crescent of the moon in the sky. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, you see a thin crescent on the right side of the moon.
This is the end of the first quarter of the cycle, where you see the half-moon in the night sky.
This is the next phase after the half-moon. It is a step away from the full moon. It’s called waxing because it’s getting bigger at this point.
This is when you see the moon fully illuminated on one side by the sun.
This is when the moon starts to get smaller again. It’s called waning to indicate the shrinking in size. This phase is just a step away from another half-moon.
We are now in the third quarter of the cycle and it is also a half moon except this time the opposite side of the moon (compared to what you saw earlier) will be lit.
This is the final phase when the moon is back in its crescent shape. And in the northern hemisphere, it shows up on the left side.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How Long Is One Moon Phase?
A: 27 days which is also how long the moon takes to orbit around the Earth.
Q: What Causes Changes in the Moon Phases?
A: The location of the moon with respect to the Earth.
Conclusion & Summary
The moon has eight phases based on its location relative to the Earth. In each of these phases, the moon looks different, and it’s all just a matter of how sunlight travels to the moon over the Earth.