Moon Phases: Names & Sequence

Moon Phases: Names & Sequence
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  • 0:01 The Phases of the Moon
  • 0:46 The New Moon & Waxing Crescent
  • 1:44 First Quarter & Waxing Gibbous
  • 2:25 The Full Moon & Waning Phases
  • 4:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson will go over the phases of the moon. The full moon, new moon, waxing, waning, and gibbous phases and the order in which they occur and what they look like are discussed.

The Phases of the Moon

When I was a little kid, I'd stare in awe at the moon, but I never knew why it changed shape or what all the different shapes were called!

Another lesson would have outlined for you how it is that the earth, sun, and the motions of the moon combine to form the different lunar phases. In a very brief synopsis of that lesson, you need to know that the phase of the moon that appears on our sky depends on how big of a fraction of the side of the moon that we see is lit up by sunlight.

Nevertheless, this lesson will be more about the names of the phases of the moon rather than the motions of the celestial bodies involved in their creation. From the invisible new moon, to the beautiful crescent, to the full moon, and more, stick around to learn more about this.

The New Moon & Waxing Crescent

The phase of the moon where we cannot see the moon in the sky, unless there's a solar eclipse, is known as the new moon. This means that the half of the moon that is illuminated by the sun is the far side of the moon, the side of the moon we never get to see.

The reason we normally see the moon in the sky is because sunlight is reflected back to us from its surface, as if from a mirror, but if the half of the moon we do get to see is in complete darkness, logically, we're not going to see much.

Because the new moon is near the sun at the point of the new moon, it will rise around sunrise and set at around sunset. It's as if the moon and sun are holding hands. As the moon continues its orbit around the earth in a counterclockwise fashion, more and more of the side that we see is illuminated by the sun. This phase is known as the waxing crescent.

First Quarter & Waxing Gibbous

About a week after the new moon, half of the side of the moon that we do get to see and the half of the side of the moon we don't get to see is illuminated by sunshine. This is known as the first quarter moon, which is also the phase of the moon we see roughly one week after the new moon.

The illuminated portion of the first quarter moon and waxing crescent is towards the west. The phase of the moon we see after the first quarter moon is called the waxing gibbous moon, because 'gibbous' means 'swollen' or 'humpbacked,' and it does sort of look like the moon is swelling up a bit or developing a little hump. To help you remember that during the waxing phase we see more and more of the moon every night, you should be aware that 'waxing' is a synonym for 'increasing.'

The Full Moon & Waning Phases

The phase of the moon we see two weeks after the new moon is known as the full moon. At this point, the moon is directly opposite our sun in the sky. What this means is that the only half of the moon that is illuminated by sunshine is the side we see. The far side is completely dark at this point. Since the full moon is directly opposite the sun, it will rise at sunset and set at sunrise.

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