The full moon that occurs closest to the autumnal equinox is called the Harvest Moon because its bright light allows farmers to work late into the evening to bring in their summer crops.
In fact, many human activities and festivities are tied to cycles and phases of the moon.
For more information on individual phases of the moon, read the list pages.
The science of the phases of the Moon is simple, too.
As you know, although the Moon does orbit the Earth, it does not revolve on its axis.
This means that we see only one side of the Moon.
What does change is the position of Earth in its own orbit around the Sun.
The Moon’s monthly cycle
In truth the Moon has two monthly cycles: the lunar month – the time it takes to orbit the Earth, about 27.3 days – and the time it takes to complete its cycle of phases – the synodic month.
As the positions of the Earth, Moon and Sun change relative to each other during the month, so do the phases of the Moon.
And, as the Moon moves in its synchronous orbit around the Earth, we see the facing side from incrementally different angles as the Earth moves along its orbit at the same time.
Phases of the Moon
Depending on whom you talk to, the Moon has between four and 32 phases.
Most of us know eight:
- New Moon (Dark of the Moon)
- Waxing Crescent
- First Quarter (Half Moon)
- Waxing Gibbous
- Full Moon
- Waning Gibbous
- Last Quarter (Half Moon)
- Waning Crescent
As each full Moon has a name and a tradition, so do the phases of the Moon.
Read the list pages for more information about each of these phases.
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OFFICIAL BIO: K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years and knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org