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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, 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 sky changes. 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. Ref: Deborah Byrd- Wikipedia moon calendar courtesy of phases of the moon photo courtesy of Article Archive