Q:

What are the different shapes of the moon called?

A:

Quick Answer

The shapes of the moon over a 29.5 day period are known as its phases. They are the result of the moon being illuminated by the sun in different positions as it orbits the Earth.

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Full Answer

There are eight distinguishable phases of the moon. In the new moon phase, the moon is directly between the sun and Earth, receiving no illumination on the side of the moon facing our planet. The moon then transitions through the waxing crescent, first quarter and waxing gibbous phases. The right half of the moon is increasingly illuminated during this period in the northern hemisphere, while the southern hemisphere sees these phases grow from the left half of the moon. The halfway point of the phases is the full moon, when Earth's satellite is fully illuminated. From this point, the illumination decreases through the waning gibbous, third quarter and waning crescent phases.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What does "moon phases" mean?

    A:

    Moon phases refers to the appearance of the moon in the night sky and how much of its visible surface is illuminated. As the moon travels through its orbit, the percentage of its illuminated surface facing Earth waxes and wanes between full illumination and full darkness. This creates several distinct phases: full, gibbous, quarter, crescent and new.

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  • Q:

    How many phases does the moon have?

    A:

    The moon has a total of eight individual phases. Four of these phases are considered to be the moon's main phases. The remaining four phases are considered to be the moon's transitional phases.

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  • Q:

    What makes a half moon?

    A:

    According to NASA, the phases of the moon are caused by the sunlight and shadow created by its relative position to the sun. At two points during the 29.5-day lunar cycle, the side of the moon facing the Earth is half in sunlight, half in shade. This creates a half moon, a phase that lasts a few days before it either fills to gibbous or shrinks to a waning crescent.

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  • Q:

    Why do we have moon phases?

    A:

    Moon phases occur because the angle of the Earth, moon and sun changes as the moon orbits the Earth. One-half of the moon is always illuminated by the sun. As a person's angle of sight changes, different portions of sunlight and shadow are observed on the moon's surface.

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