Q:

Why does the moon appear bright?

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Quick Answer

The moon appears bright because the side visible on Earth reflects the light from the sun. As the moon and the Earth move around their respective orbits, different portions of the moon are visible to people on Earth, depending on the angle at which the light hits the moon and reflects back to Earth. The moon reflects back about 12 percent of the light from the sun that hits it.

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Full Answer

The moon appears brightest during the full moon phase of its cycle. During a full moon, the moon is directly opposite the sun, and a full hemisphere reflects back the light. During the opposite phase, known as a new moon, the moon is located on the same side of Earth, and the sun and none of the illuminated portion is visible on Earth. Next to the new moon phase, the moon is at its least bright during the waxing crescent and waning crescent phases, when only a sliver of the illuminated portion is visible on Earth. The next brightest states are the first and last quarter moons, when about half of the illuminated hemisphere is visible. In between a full moon and the quarter phases, the waxing gibbous and waning gibbous phases display less than the whole, but more than half, of the hemisphere illuminated by the sun.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What causes a crescent moon?

    A:

    Crescent moons happen when Earth, the sun and moon are positioned in a way that only shows a portion of the reflected light on the moon. The result is a crescent-shaped light pattern.

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  • Q:

    Why do we see the phases of the moon?

    A:

    The lunar phases are caused by the changing angles of the sun, the moon and Earth, as the moon revolves around Earth. Different amounts of the illuminated part of the moon are visible from Earth. The lunar phases include the new moon, first quarter, full moon, third quarter, crescent and gibbous.

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  • Q:

    Where does "gibbous moon" mean?

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    The term "gibbous moon" refers to the phase of the moon's cycle when more than half but less than all of the moon is illuminated by the sun, making it visible from Earth. A gibbous moon can be either waxing or waning, explains Universe Today.

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  • Q:

    How much of the moon is always lit by the sun?

    A:

    Half of the moon is always lit by the sun, unless the sun is eclipsed by the Earth. The portion of the illuminated moon viewed from Earth depends on the moon's orbit. As the moon orbits, different portions of shadow and illumination are seen from Earth, creating the moon's phases.

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