26 September 2017

Remembering names of Moon Phases

We are seeing moon getting brighter in the evening sky every day from the last new moon on 20th. With each passing day more area of the moon is illuminating and we can see lot of features on the moon. Many people have confusion when it comes to naming the phases of the moon, so here is a something useful to remember the names.

First, we start with couple of days after the new moon, the phase we are seeing is crescent phase a thin sunlit part of the moon and since the sunlit part is getting bigger with passing days we call it waxing crescent. This is from old English meaning something that grows, here the brighter side is growing.

Waxing crescent moon. Sunlit part towards west.

Next is First quarter, this phase happens when the Sun, earth and the moon align in such a way that Sun and moon are at right angles as seen from earth. We can seen this in the evening sky, on the evening of the first quarter at sunset, we can measure the angle between Sun at the horizon and the moon and the angle will be 90 degrees or close to 90 degrees depending on actual time of alignment.

First Quarter moon. Sunlit part towards west.

Between First quarter and Full Moon, when more then half of the moon is lit up by sunlight we call it gibbous phase and since the brightness is increasing its waxing gibbous phase.

Waxing gibbous moon. Sunlit part towards west. 

After the first quarter comes the Full moon phase, which we are all familiar with, in astronomy we call moon is in opposition. The moon and the sun are on the opposite sides of the earth, if they are exactly aligned then we have a lunar eclipse.

Full moon

From new moon phase the moon was in the sky before the sunset and would set late as the days passed until Full moon when it rises at sunset. After this the moon rises late after sunset and the brightness starts decreasing.

Waning gibbous moon. Sunlit part towards east.

Since its decreasing and more then half is lit, but not fully lit, we call it waning gibbous phase. After that moon reaches last quarter again attaining right angle with the sun. This means the moon will by high in the sky at sunrise. The next phase in waning crescent where we see thin lit surface of the moon and finally reaching new moon phase.

From new moon to full moon, we see the lit part is towards west and from full moon to new moon, we see the lit part towards east, the lit part will be towards the sun.

Now I think there is no problem in telling the phases below,

Last Quarter moon. Sunlit part towards east.
Waning crescent moon.Sunlit part towards east.



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