Moon Phases and Calendar
by Bonnie Moss (c) 2012 November
There is something haunting in the light of the moon;
it has all the dispassionateness of a disembodied soul,
and something of its inconceivable mystery.
-Joseph Conrad 1857-1924, Polish-born British Novelist
To many, seeing the moon in the sky spells romance. What could be more romantic than
sitting outside and watch a full moon and drift off to a fantasy world and tranquility if only
for a brief moment. The tides are affected by the moon. Anyone who is curious about the
unknown will find a full moon mysterious, as it casts shadows amid the fingers of light and
makes you wonder what lurks behind the shadows.
To stargazers, Earthsky.org offer some tips to moonwatchers:
"The earth's companion moon is visible from city streets, subarban decks and wide-open
rural pastures, in the forests and meadows, shining or glimmering across the seas, lakes
or rivers.The moon connects you to everybody on the planet, because generally speaking,
we all see the moon at the same phase. The moon's orbit around the earth is regular and
predictable. The moon waxes and wanes in our sky. It appears at different sunsets in
different months throughout the year, but it always appear in the night sky."
Deborah Byrd explains why the moon changes its phases every night:
"The moon is a world in space, just as Earth is. Like the Earth, it is always half- illuminated
by the sun. The round globe of the moon has a day and night side. From our Earthly vantage
point, as the moon orbits around the Earth, we see varying fractions of the moon's day and
night sides- these are the changing phases of the moon.
These phases occur in an orderly way."
There are eight different phases of a lunar cycle or lunation. In
each phase, the alignment of the Sun, Moon and Earth in the
New Moon - During the new moon phase, the Sun, Moon,
and Earth are all lined up in one straight line. The Moon is
placed in between the Earth and the Sun. As a result, the illuminated portion of the
Moon becomes completely invisible to an observer standing on the Earth.
Waxing Crescent - The Moon starts drifting from the new moon phase towards the full moon
phase. During this phase, the size of the illumined portion of the Moon is increasing and less
than fifty percent of the Moon is visible to us. You can see the waxing crescent moon between
sunset and midnight.
Waxing essentially means "growing" or expanding in illumination,when the moon starts
to drift from new moon to full moon.
First Quarter - the Moon is positioned perpendicular with respect to both the Sun and
the Earth. In this phase, right half portion of the Moon is illumined by sunlight and is visible in
between afternoon and early part of the night.
Waxing Gibbous - this phase lasts for seven days. More than fifty percent of the Moon is
illuminated from right to left. This appears just after sunset and is visible almost throughout the
night, full moon follows.
The word gibbous refers to phases where the moon is more than half illuminated and bulging outwards.
Full Moon - During the full moon, the Sun, Moon and Earth are aligned in a straight line and
the Earth lies in between the Moon and the Sun. Thus the entire illuminated portion of the Moon
is visible to us.
Waning Gibbous - This can be described as a phase where the visible portion of the Moon is
shrinking to a smaller size. Still, more than fifty percent of it can be viewed from the Earth. During
this period, the Moon is lit from left to right. This Moon can be seen by joggers and morning walkers
early in the morning as it sets after sunrise.
Third Quarter - This phase is when the illumined portion of the Moon reduces to half of its size
in the full moon phase. Here, the right half of the Moon remains unilluminated. You can see it late
at night or early in the morning.
Following the third quarter is the waning crescent, which wanes until the light is completely gone --
a new moon. Waning Crescent - This is an interesting phase as the Moon is getting smaller and you
can see only a thin slice of the Moon .The moon is moving
New Moon - The Moon starts a new journey all over again. This is often referred to as dark moon
as the Moon is not visible at all.
Half moon is often used to mean the first- and third-quarter moons, while the term 'quarter'
refers to the extent of the moon's cycle around the Earth, not its shape.
Researchers and scientists believe that lunar cycles affect sea tides and may cause some climatic
changes as well. Apart from the scientific observations, lunar cycles are also closely watched by
astrologers. They think that lunar cycles have strong influences on the way men and women react
to a certain situation at a given point of time.
When a crescent Moon occurs, the phenomenon of Earthshine may be apparent, where the night
side of the Moon faintly reflects light from the Earth.
As you watch the moon- take a walk and watch the moon follow you.
Deborah Byrd- Earthsky.org
moon calendar courtesy of imooncal.com
phases of the moon photo courtesy of Earthsky.org