How Do the Moon Phases Work?

how do the moon phases work

Every month the moon goes through a cycle of phases that change our view of it from Earth. The moon phases depend on where the moon is with respect to the sun in space.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the right side of the Moon grows with light (waxing) from a crescent to a semicircle and then to a gibbous shape until it becomes a full moon. The opposite side shrinks with the light (waning) from a new moon to nothing.

New Moon

The Moon orbits around Earth, so its appearance changes as it cycles through different phases. This is due to the varying inclination of its orbit. This causes part of its back side to appear to be visible to terrestrial observers at certain times. This is known as lunar libration and accounts for the gradual change in its apparent size from night to night.

As the Moon orbits around Earth, its illuminated part gradually transitions between crescent, gibbous, waxing and waning phases. This process takes about 29.5 days, and the Moon phases vary in length as a result of this.

In the beginning, the Moon appears to disappear from Earth’s view as the illuminated side faces away from us. But this doesn’t happen always, and we can see the moon at other times – like when the Moon is at its closest point to Earth during the day.

To help you understand this phenomenon, we’ve compiled a short animation showing the progression of the moon phase from new to full. You can find the animation on our blog, or you can download it to your computer.

We’ve also included an easy-to-use moon calendar so you can follow the progression of the Moon phases at any time. It includes a graphic depiction of your moon phase for the current month and the next phase, as well as dates and times for each phase for your specific location.

Once you’ve got a good grasp of how the moon phases work, you can start to plan some rituals to celebrate your favorite phases and take advantage of their powerful energy. Whether it’s setting an intention for your life or simply getting outside and enjoying the beauty of the natural world, there are endless ways to harness the energy of the Moon and transform it into something meaningful.

The new Moon is a great time to set intentions for your life. This is the ideal time to start a new project or get motivated by something you’ve been dreaming about. If you’ve been feeling stuck, use the energy of the new moon to let go of any past traumas or negative emotions and start fresh.

First Quarter

The first quarter of the Moon is a time for re-evaluation. This is because the Moon has completed a cycle from new moon to waxing crescent, and now it’s going through a phase where it pauses to think about what’s next.

This is a good time to make some changes or take stock of your goals. It can be tempting to let the first quarter pass you by, but if you’re serious about making progress on your journey, then it’s worth taking the time to focus on what matters to you.

You might be looking for new ways to approach your life or trying to break free from old habits that are holding you back. You’ll be feeling the tension that this moon phase can imprint on your life, and this is a great opportunity for you to get a sense of what you need to work on.

Many people associate this phase with determination and focus, which is very yin elements in the yin-yang view of the world. The first quarter also represents tension and conflict, and you may find yourself in situations where you have to decide between your mission and your comfort zone.

However, the most important thing is that you’re determined to move forward and do the best you can. You’re going to have a lot of pitfalls along the way, but with some perseverance and commitment, you’ll get through them and emerge stronger than before.

Another meaning that first quarter moon can have for you is that it’s a time to start making new friends or reconnecting with the ones you haven’t seen in a while. The intensity and energy that this moon phase brings is a good match for the desire to get to know other people.

During the first quarter moon, one-half of the Moon appears to be illuminated by direct sunlight. This is because the ecliptic longitude of the Moon, which is the angle of the Moon to the Sun from Earth, is 90 degrees greater than the ecliptic longitude of the Sun.

Full Moon

The lunar phases, ranging from new to full moon, complete a cycle once every 29.5 days due to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Each phase has its own name and appears at different times across the globe, but they all appear at roughly the same time in a geocentric (Earth-centered) sense.

The full moon happens when the Moon reaches its halfway point on its orbit around the Earth. As it does so, its illuminated side faces the Sun and the night side reflects light back to the observer from the Earth.

In this phase the lunar surface resembles an egg-shaped crescent, with light growing out from each end. From the Earth, it looks like the right half of the moon is lit up more than the left, a process called ‘waxing’. It takes about a fortnight for the left side to become ‘waning’, shrinking to nothing as it fades away from the Sun.

A full moon is a powerful time to reflect on the past and set intentions for the future. This is when we need to let go of old patterns, beliefs and habits that no longer serve us. During this phase we can also celebrate the culmination of our intentions and feel gratitude for all that we’ve accomplished thus far.

There is a lot of energy in this phase, so it is important to find ways to ground yourself and express your emotions. Meditation and visualization under the full moon can help to bring these energies to the forefront of your awareness.

If you’re feeling tense or overwhelmed during the full moon, take a deep breath and allow yourself to connect with the divine energy of the Moon. Meditate on a burning desire or question that you may have, or simply listen to your body and mind.

It is also a good time to plant and cultivate something new, or begin a project that has been nagging at you for too long. Use this time to wash your clothes, cook a meal that resonates with your intention, or wear a costume to symbolize letting go of the past and welcoming in new growth.

Last Quarter

Every 28.5 days, the moon takes a different orbit around Earth. Throughout that orbit, the moon appears to wax and wane, depending on its proximity to the sun.

The phases of the moon are an important part of the lunar cycle, and each one has its own meaning for our emotions and actions. They can be used as a guide to help us make the most of each moment.

For example, the new moon phase is a time to set intentions and create new beginnings. It is also a good time to clean up your home, start a new diet or wellness routine and recharge your batteries.

Another important period of the lunar cycle is the last quarter. The last quarter moon – sometimes called the third quarter moon or balsamic moon – is the final phase of the cycle before the dark new moon phase and full moon phase begin again.

During this phase, the moon is about half illuminated. This can be difficult to spot in the night sky. The best way to determine whether the moon is waxing or waning is to look at its percent illumination, listed in the Moon phase calendar below.

In the Northern Hemisphere, this phase looks like a sliver of a crescent moon. The part of the moon that’s lit up is growing, while the part that’s not lit up is shrinking. The percentage of the moon that’s illuminated will grow from left to right in the Northern Hemisphere, while it decreases from left to right in the Southern Hemisphere.

On a last quarter moon, the lunar terminator – the shadow line that divides day and night – lines up with the Earth’s. This allows observers from above or below the moon’s orbital plane to use the Moon as a guide to Earth’s motion in its orbit around the sun.

During this last quarter of the lunar cycle, we can reflect on what we’ve achieved and see how far we still have to go. We may have come to a point where we need to release or forgive someone or something that has been holding us back from our goals. At the same time, this is an excellent time to realign our goals with our higher purpose. This will help us take the next step in our journey.

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