The moon rotates around Earth in a cycle of eight phases. Each phase illuminates a different portion of the Moon’s surface.
The New Moon is essentially dark, as is the First Quarter; then the waxing crescent stage takes it from half-illuminated to full-illuminated, and back again, until we arrive at the Full Moon.
The first quarter phase of the moon occurs halfway between new moon and full moon. This means that exactly half of the daylit side of the moon is visible to us.
To the naked eye, the moon appears as if it’s split in half. The half that’s lit appears as a crescent, while the other half remains in shadow.
People born on the first quarter moon have a strong drive for change, and are often known to push for breakthroughs in their work and social circles. They don’t let insecurities or a lack of confidence get in the way of putting their visions into action.
The first quarter is a time to take stock, assess where you’re at, and set out on completing your goals. This is a time to feel your emotions, and act on them. This is a great time to create rituals, meditate, and journal your progress.
The first quarter of the moon is visible to the south in the early evening, rising about 6 hours before the Sun sets. This phase of the moon is called the first quarter because it is one-quarter of the way through the lunar month.
This is an important time for the Moon to rise in the night sky because it signals that the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer. It also symbolizes the beginning of spring on the Northern hemisphere and autumn on the Southern hemisphere.
The next phase, third quarter (also known as the last quarter), is where half of the Moon’s surface appears illuminated. This occurs when the Moon has completed 3/4 of its orbit around Earth, and is a good opportunity to watch the ocean’s tides.
The Moon is in three quarters of its orbit around Earth, so the name Third Quarter fits nicely. This is the phase when we see half of the Moon’s disk illuminated (in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s the left side).
It’s also called a Waning Crescent, because as night falls, the illuminated portion of the disk becomes smaller and smaller.
During this stage, the Moon can be seen rising after sunset, descending over the western horizon as it sets, and sweeping west to southwest after sunrise.
The smallest difference in ocean tides occurs during the First and Third Quarter, when the Sun and Moon are not aligned. This is because the Moon and the Sun’s gravity pull on the oceans in different directions, producing a range of high and low tides known as neaps.
The Moon moves around Earth every month, completing a cycle that lasts about 29.5 days. It orbits at a rate of about 36,000 miles per hour (roughly 60,000 kilometers per hour).
The Moon begins its monthly cycle with a New Moon, then goes through First Quarter, Full Moon, and Last Quarter phases before returning to a New Moon at the end of the month. Each phase of the lunar cycle has a distinct look and feel to it.
For example, during the waxing crescent phase, the Moon appears to be almost fully illuminated by direct sunlight. This area slowly shrinks over the course of the next few days, revealing the Moon’s left side in darkness and the right side lit up, and finally forming a thin crescent.
The same happens during the waning gibbous phase. The Moon is still slightly illuminated by the sun, but the area that’s visible is thinner each day until it looks like a half-lit half-circle on the moon’s left side. The crescent is visible rising after sunset, and up high in the sky after midnight before it sets to the south after sunrise.