Breakdown: Why the moon has different phases

Updated: Mar. 17, 2021 at 10:26 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - When you look up at the moon, it may have a different shape depending on which phase it is in. Since the moon is orbiting around Earth, it will have different shadows based on it’s location between Earth and the sun. These different day (light) and night (dark) sides are what we call moon phases.

The only source of light in our solar system is the sun, so the moon will look brighter when the sun is reflecting off moon’s surface. The sun will always light up one side of the moon, but the side not facing the sun will appear dark.

After the night of the full moon, every following night less and less of the moon will be illuminated. Eventually, the moon will reach a point in orbit where it will look completely dark. This is because the light side is facing completely towards the sun and the dark side is facing towards earth. This is called a new moon.

🌑 New: You cannot see the moon.

🌒 Waxing Crescent: The moon is a thin crescent of light on the right.

🌓 First Quarter: The first quarter phase as a half moon.

🌔 Waxing Gibbous: Between a half moon and full moon. Waxing means the light area is getting bigger

🌕 Full: The moon is completely illuminated.

🌖 Waning Gibbous: Between a half moon and full moon. Waning means it is getting smaller.

🌗 Third Quarter: Looks like a half moon.

🌘 Waning Crescent: In the Northern Hemisphere, a thin crescent of light on the left.

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