The part of the moon that shines bightly at night, is the part of the moon that is reflecting sunlight.  The reason that the sunlight on the moon looks like it is growing bigger or getting smaller as days go by, is because the Moon orbits the Earth which makes the sunlight on the moon look different.  The Moon orbits the Earth approximately every 29.5 days, so the full cycle of the ways the sunlight is reflected on the moon will complete approximately every 29.5 days also.  For example: the moon is full today and it will be full again in approxiamtely 29.5 days, the way that the sunlight is reflected on the Moon tonight (making it look full) will be the same in approximately another 29.5 days.   

Here are some words and definitions associated with the moon's phases:

The moon has four relatively familiar phases called "The New Moon," "The First Quarter," "The Full Moon" and "The Last Quarter," here are their definitions:  

  • The New Moon: When the sunlight reflected onto the moon appears to be completely absent (and that's only because the sun's light is all being reflected on the other side of the Moon, the side that can't be seen from Earth)
  • The First Quarter: When the moon is halfway bright on the right side (directly between a "The New Moon" phase and a "The Full Moon" phase) 
  • The Full Moon: When the moon is as bright as it can be
  • The Last Quarter: When the moon is halfway bright on the left side (directly between a "Full Moon" phase and a "New Moon" phase)

In addition to the phases above, there are a few more words that are important to know when describing the Moon's phases, they are: 

  • Gibbous: When the light on the moon is bigger than "The First Quarter" or "The Last Quarter" moon phase
  • Crescent: When the light on the moon is smaller than "The First Quarter" or "The Last Quarter" moon phase
  • Waxing: When the light on the moon is growing bigger
  • Waning: When the light on the moon is getting smaller

With these four words above in mind, the complete list of moon phases from beginning to end (and then they repeat all over again) are:

  1. The New Moon
    New Moon
  2. Waxing Crescent
    Waxing Crescent
  3. The First Quarter
    First Quarter
  4. Waxing Gibbous
    Waxing Gibbous
  5. The Full Moon
    Full Moon
  6. Waning Gibbous
    Waning Gibbous
  7. The Last Quarter
    Last Quarter
  8. Waning Crescent
    Waning Crescent
  9. The New Moon starts again
    New Moon

Check out this site for more's the source of the moon phase module in the right hand column of this page. Even better...go to this page and purchase his Moon Phases Software.

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