The Moon changes shape each night as it moves through its 29.5 day orbit around Earth. These changes are called phases, and they can be confusing for some people to figure out.
Here’s a handy mnemonic that can help you remember the order of the phases. Try it out on your next Moon Phases quiz!
Phases of the Moon
The Moon cycles through eight phases, a product of its orbit around Earth. At each phase, a portion of its surface is illuminated by the Sun in different shapes and sizes.
New Moon, crescent moon, first quarter, full moon, and last quarter (also known as third quarter) are the main lunar phases. They vary in duration from approximately 13 days 22+1/2 hours to about 15 days 14+1/2 hours, but each cycle of phases lasts a month on average, and is known as a synodic month.
At each stage of the moon’s cycle, the amount of lit area on the surface increases, called waxing, and decreases, called waning. In the Northern Hemisphere, this starts with a fully illuminated left side, which then slowly shrinks and reaches a thin crescent on the right.
As the Moon continues to revolve around the Earth, it changes shape. This change in appearance is called a “phase” of the Moon.
During the waxing phase, the Moon’s surface grows to an oval-to-round shape. It is the only phase of the Moon that is visible from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
Next up is the First Quarter, where 50% of the Moon’s face is illuminated. This is the right side for those in the northern hemisphere and the left for those in the southern.
During this stage, the Moon’s illuminated area rises and sets at different times every day. The waxing phase ends with a Full Moon.
The waning gibbous phase of the moon is the second stage between a Full Moon and a Last Quarter Moon. During this phase, only about half of the Moon’s surface is illuminated.
This mystical phase is a time to re-evaluate your goals and set new ones. It is also a time to let go of what has been and move forward with renewed energy.
It’s also a good time to look back on the previous month and see what you can learn from it.
Several books and articles suggest that different phases of the moon affect seed germination, plant growth, and flowering. Generally, the waxing gibbous phase is believed to stimulate leaf growth while the waning gibbous phase is believed to stimulate plant roots.
Full moon is one of the more spectacular lunar phases, because it’s when the whole round illuminated face of the Moon is visible from Earth. It’s also the phase where most of the sunlight reflects off the Moon toward Earth, making it very bright from our perspective.
The Full Moon is a significant milestone in the cycle of the Moon. This is because it marks the moment the Moon reaches the halfway point of its orbit around Earth.
The Full Moon is the most impressive of all the lunar phases because it occurs when the Sun, Earth and the Moon are in perfect alignment. It’s a rare sight, and it is often named as the best lunar phase in history.
The new moon phase is a time of the month when the moon is most near between Earth and Sun for that particular lunar cycle. In this phase, the illuminated side of the moon faces the Sun, and the night side faces Earth.
During this moon phase, many people set intentions, make manifests and take action in new ways. This is a great time to start something new or create a space for something to grow in your life, but it’s best to wait until the moon is full before making any big changes. This is a fun way to learn about the phases of the moon, and to teach students about how to use the moon to their advantage in their daily lives.