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Astronomy for Kids: Learn About the Phases of the Moon

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When you look up at the moon, it may either be a full circle, a partial circle or a crescent (banana) shape. Or you may not see the moon at all. Why does the Moon change day to day throughout each month?

It takes the Moon 29 days to orbit the Earth. This is called a lunar month. During the lunar month, the Moon goes through phases.

The Moon doesn’t make any light of its own. We only see the Moon because sunlight lights up its surface. As the Moon orbits the Earth, the amount that we see lit changes. These changes are known as the phases of the Moon.

Phases of the moon during one month

Phases of the moon during one month

Waxing and Waning

During a new Moon, we see the side of the Moon that is not being lit by the Sun. The Moon is there but we can’t see it. Then the Moon starts waxing. This means getting bigger. The Moon waxes until it becomes a full Moon. Then we see the Moon as a shiny circle in the sky. The Moon starts to wane, which means get smaller. It wanes until it becomes a new Moon again. Then the lunar month is complete and a new lunar month begins.

The phases of the moon are a cycle. A cycle is something that happens over and over.

Moon Phases

The eight phases of the moon are new Moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full Moon, waning gibbous, third quarter and waning crescent. There are four principal lunar phases: new Moon, first quarter, full Moon, and last quarter (also called third or final quarter).

The moon has eight phases

The moon has eight phases

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2013 JoanCA


JoanCA (author) on February 02, 2013:

You're welcome, psychicdog. on February 02, 2013:

waxing and waning gibbous ? Never knew.Thanks Joan.

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