During night time, the moon is the clearest celestial object that could be seen any place on earth. The moon is considered as the closest celestial thing on earth and is the only natural satellite to the earth (Freudenrich, 2008). As people noticed, the moon presents changing shapes in the night sky. There are instances when one could see a full disk shape, other times it peaks a faction of its face and sometimes it vanishes for a few days. These changes in the bright side of the moon are identified as the moon’s phases.
Such occurrence in the moon is not random at all rather the changes happen in a monthly basis and occurs in a predictable manner (Freudenrich, 2008). The moons phases are not the result of the earth’s shadow as many believe. The shadow of the earth may cause eclipses but the occurrence of the moons phases is a different case. Phases of the moon are dependent on its position in the alignment together with the earth and sun thus the illuminated part in the moon’s face is caused by the reflection of the light from the sun (Barrow, 2008, 1).
During the 29 day travel of the moon around its orbit, its position undergoes daily changes. There are times when the moon is positioned between the earth and the sun, other times it is behind the earth this is why people see the bright parts of the moon’s surface in different angles (Freudenrich, 2008). The eight phases of the moon undergoes a cycle which is proceeded by the new moon. New moon also known as the dark moon could be seen whenever the sun and the moon are similarly positioned on the same side of the earth.
The new moon is essentially not visible because it is situated in between the sun and the earth therefore the part which is illuminated faces directly to the sun while the other part which is lost in the sun’s glare is facing the earth (Barrow, 2008, 1). The second phase of the moon is identified as the waxing crescent. This appears during the second or third day. During this phase only a little part of the moon is showing up. It is characterized with a thin lunar sliver which is apparent minutes after the sunset.
Such phase is termed as waxing because every night a part of the moon becomes more visible in a longer time (The phases of our moon: What can you see tonight, 2008). By the time the waxing crescent moon grows in a half full, it has then reached the third phase which is known as the first quarter. During this phase, half of the moon is already visible. However, its visibility last during the first half of the evening and eventually goes down. It is also important to note that the first quarter moon reflect the sun’s light on the right hand side (The phases of our moon: What can you see tonight, 2008).
Waxing Gibbous moon is a phase when most part of the moon is already visible. At this point, the moon is clearly visible to any of its observers and only a little sliver is not illuminated. The gibbous moon could be seen clearly even before the sunset and stays in the night sky until three in the morning (Barrow, 2008, 1). The entire face of the moon is apparent during the fifth phase which is the full moon. This phase takes place whenever the earth is positioned between the moon and the earth. Full moon is the only phase where the moon is shining all throughout the night.
A full moon will rise during the beginning of the night and will eventually set as morning steps in (Barrow, 2008, 1). Just like the waxing gibbous, the waning gibbous which is the sixth phase of the moon, shows all but a little part of the moon. However, in contrast with the waxing gibbous where observers are seeing much of the celestial body’s illuminated part, the waning gibbous is an indication of seeing less of the moon in the upcoming nights. This is why it was coined as “waning” gibbous (The phases of our moon: What can you see tonight, 2008). Second to the last of the moon’s phase is the last quarter.
Much like the first quarter, people see a half full of the moon’s illuminated face however; the reflected light is set on the left hand corner of the moon contrary to the first quarter phase which is reflected in the right hand side (Barrow, 2008, 1). Finally the waning crescent marks the final cycle of the moon’s phase. During this period people would observer that only little of the moons face is visible. By the following nights only a smaller part of the moon can be seen in a lesser period. From there a new cycle will then proceed (The phases of our moon: What can you see tonight, 2008).
Evidently the moon’s phases are dependent upon the moon’s lining position in accordance to the sun and earth. It is also noteworthy that the sequence of the phases starts with the moon’s light illumination from right to left until it extends to the full moon phase. Right after the said phase the illuminated area of the moon would retreat from right to left until it reaches the new moon phase which would mark another cycle. The phases of the moon are not complicated as it may appear. By learning how, when and why it occurs enables an individual to know that such event is not random but a predictable event.