Astronomy World

Lunar Events

by Tia

Astronomers become aware of lunar events even if they are not directly observing the Moon.  During a two week period the Moon will go from a very dim object to a very bright one.

When a bright Full Moon is in the sky, it can adversely affect deep sky viewing of nebulae and galaxies.  The closer the moon approaches the New Moon stage the dimmer it becomes and the less time it spends above the horizon each night.  New Moons are typically the best time to observe deep sky targets like nebulae and galaxies.

The part of the Moon between the sunlit portion and the shadow portion is known as the terminator.  The terminator is a fantastic area to study the Moon because the features like craters, mountains, valleys, etc. are partially in sunlight and shadow and these features show great amounts of detail.  The wonderful part of the terminator is that it changes each night allowing for a new area to study.  Each night is a new view!

New Moon

New Moon

A New Moon appears when the side on the moon facing Earth is completely in shadow.  This means that the Moon and Sun are rising and setting in the same vicinity in the sky.  If the Moon actually passes between the Sun and the Earth so that it’s shadow passes across the Earth’s surface that event would be a Solar Eclipse.

New Moon is typically the very best time for deep sky observing.

First Quarter Moon

First Quarter Moon

For the week between the New Moon and the First Quarter Moon the sunlit side of the Moon grows as a crescent until the disk of the Moon is half lit. This half lit point is known as the First Quarter.

After the First Quarter the sunlit part of the Lunar disk is called Waxing Gibbous as it grows to illuminate the full disk of the Moon.

Full Moon

Full Moon

A Full Moon appears when the side on the moon facing Earth is completely sunlit. At This point the Moon is at Opposition to the Sun: rising as the Sun sets and setting as the Sun rises. If the Earth actually passes between the Sun and the Moon so that it’s shadow passes across the Lunar surface that event would be a Lunar Eclipse.

The Full Moon is typically the worse time for deep sky observing because the “moon glow” affects the dark sky.

Last Quarter Moon

Last Quarter Moon

The week between the Full Moon and the Last Quarter Moon the sunlit side of the Moon is called Waning Gibbous and is shrinking until the lunar disk is half in sunlight and half in shadow.  This half lit point is the Last Quarter Moon.

After the Last Quarter the sunlit side of the Moon continues to shrink as a crescent as the Moon approaches the Sun’s position in the sky.

Blue Moon

A Blue Moon is simply the second Full Moon that occurs in a calendar month.  These are rare occurrences (hence the phrase once in a Blue Moon).

Upcoming Lunar Events

Date/Time Lunar Phase
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