The moon is the natural satellite of the Earth and the celestial star of the night. Each of us has admired at least once a superb Full Moon highlighting a marvelous scenery or a rising New Moon. The Moon phases together with the stars and clouds offer us very often fantastic shows, we just have to stop and admire them.
But what causes the phases of the Moon and how many Moon phases are there?
It’s a fact that the Moon looks slightly different each night: this is a phase or a shape. These phases are determined by the position of the Moon on its orbit around the Earth and how the light of the Sun reflects on the Moon’s surface. The dance between shadows and lights creates the phases of the moon.
The Moon covers its orbit in approximately one month and displays eight phases, from New Moon to Full Moon. Even if, from Earth we might not notice a great difference in the Moon’s phase from one day to another, the surface of the Moon illuminated by the Sun may be different with up to 10 percent.
Ever wanted to observe the Moon from closer?Well, intergalactic travels are not yet on our plate, but we can admire it for sure using a precise replica - a Levitating Moon Lamp.
Bring the Moon into your room with this fabulous and realistic Moon Lamp that graciously levitates into the air just like the natural satellite of the Earth. Notice the craters and the accidented lunar landscape while the lamp slowly rotates. It dispatches a diffuse light in harmony with that of the Moon and invites to serenity and relaxation.
The First Observations of the Moon
Along the centuries, the brilliant discus of the night was the source of a myriad of legends, beliefs and myths. A subject of veneration and wonder for the mortals.
The first who approached scientifically the Moon were the Greeks.
By 500 BC Pythagoras - astronomer and philosopher - noticed the thin curved line between the light and dark sides of the Moon. And concluded it must be a sphere.
By 350 BC Aristotle - another Greek philosopher, while observing a lunar eclipse and the shadow that the Earth projects on the Moon’s surface concluded that the Earth has a spherical shape. And that the Moon is translucent and orbits around our planet.
By 1500s AD Nicolaus Copernicus - astronomer - discovered the Solar System and noticed that the planets, including the Earth are gravitating around the Sun. He confirmed the previous theory that the Moon orbits around Earth.
By the 1600s another astronomer Galileo made use of a primitive version of the telescope to observe the Moon and revealed it has craters, mountains and valleys.
What Are the Phases of the Moon?
The Moon phases refer to the amount of sunlight that the surface of the Moon reflects and that we can see with naked eyes. It depends on the angle formed between the Moon, the Earth and the Sun while they are on the move. The Moon has no light of its own, it just reflects the Sun’s light.
The Moon’s discus changes its shape from narrow crescent to bright sphere in a period of approximative 29.53 days. The interval of time that the Moon needs to travel its orbit around the Earth is named lunar cycle, lunar month or lunation.
The simplest way to understand the lunar cycle is to start with the two most known phases: New Moon and Full Moon. The next two phases are the First Quarter and the Third Quarter and the rest are in between phases.
The New Moon
Appears when the Moon is settled between the Sun and Earth - Sun→Moon→Earth. The three celestial bodies are approximately aligned. The Sun and the Moon are in their closest position in the sky. It is the first phase of the lunar cycle.
From Earth we cannot see the Moon while in this phase, as its illuminated side is on the back side. Thus the Moon is completely dark during this phase and its luminosity is zero percent.
From time to time when the Moon is aligned in perfect angle with the Sun and the Earth, we witness a solar eclipse, as the Moon covers entirely or totally the Solar disk.
In some calendars (e.g. the Chinese solar calendar) the New Moon marks the beginning of a new month.
The Full Moon
It is the opposite of the New Moon, when the illuminated side is entirely visible from Earth. The Moon, the Earth and the Sun are again approximately aligned, just that the Earth and the Moon have changed positions Sun→Earth→Moon. The Sun and the Moon being on the opposite sides of the Earth, and the farthest in the sky. The Moon is bright with 100 percent luminosity.
You can have a Full Moon each night, right at the end of your bed. A miniature Full Moon, of course, but a realistic one.
An enchanting lamp with two colors, three lighting modes and adjustable brightness to adorn your nights and induce sweet dreams.
From time to time, when the Moon fits the perfect angle with the Earth and Sun we witness the lunar eclipses. Meaning the Moon will be in the shadow of the Earth and will interfere in the light that reflects on the Moon’s surface.
The First Quarter Also Known as “Half Moon”
It appears when the Moon is positioned at a 90 degree angle face to the Sun and Earth. At this point the Moon has walked a quarter of its orbit and it’s positioned at eastern quadrature. From Earth we notice just half of the Moon - the first quarter, the one that is illuminated by the Sun.
The Third Quarter Also Known as “Half Moon” or Last Quarter
Similarly, it appears when the Moon is positioned at a 90 degree angle face to the Sun and Earth. It has covered ¾ of its orbit and it’s positioned at western quadrature. From Earth we notice just half of the Moon - the third quarter (the opposite of the first quarter), the one that is illuminated by the Sun.
These are the main moon phases. And there are other four phases that mark the transition and describe the period of time that elapses between these principal phases.
Waxing Crescent Moon
This phase covers the interval between the New Moon and the First Quarter. When this Moon phase starts we see the celestial body as a skinny crescent form. On the right side in the Northern Hemisphere and on the left side in the Southern Hemisphere.
In some calendars like the Islamic calendar this is the phase of the Moon that signals the beginning of a new month.
Waxing Gibbous Moon
The Waxing Gibbous phase covers the interval between the First Quarter and the Full Moon. The Northern Hemisphere sees this stage on the right half and advances slowly to the left side of the Moon, while the Southern Hemisphere notices the left half advancing towards the right.
Waning Gibbous Moon
The Waning Gibbous phase covers the interval between the Full Moon and the Third Quarter. The Northern Hemisphere sees this stage like a lunar full disc starting to decrease on the right side and advancing slowly to the left side of the Moon, while the Southern Hemisphere notices the left side shrinking to the right.
Waning Crescent MoonIt’s the interval between the Third Quarter and the New Moon. When this phase starts the Northern Hemisphere sees the lightened side of the Moon diminishing from right to left, until a thin crescent remains on the left side. The Southern Hemisphere sees the reverse, the Moon becomes a slim crescent on the right side.
These are the moon phases that dance each month above our heads, whether we are aware about them or not.