Moon Phases

Moon Phases Simplified

It’s probably easiest to understand the moon cycle in this order: new moon and full moon, first quarter and third quarter, and the phases in between.

As shown in the above diagram, the new moon occurs when the moon is positioned between the earth and sun. The three objects are in approximate alignment (why “approximate” is explained below). The entire illuminated portion of the moon is on the back side of the moon, the half that we cannot see.

At a full moon, the earth, moon, and sun are in approximate alignment, just as the new moon, but the moon is on the opposite side of the earth, so the entire sunlit part of the moon is facing us. The shadowed portion is entirely hidden from view.

The first quarter and third quarter moons (both often called a “half moon”), happen when the moon is at a 90 degree angle with respect to the earth and sun. So we are seeing exactly half of the moon illuminated and half in shadow.

Once you understand those four key moon phases, the phases between should be fairly easy to visualize, as the illuminated portion gradually transitions between them.

An easy way to remember and understand those “between” lunar phase names is by breaking out and defining 4 words: crescent, gibbous, waxing, and waning. The word crescent refers to the phases where the moon is less that half illuminated. The word gibbous refers to phases where the moon is more than half illuminated. Waxing essentially means “growing” or expanding in illumination, and waning means “shrinking” or decreasing in illumination.

Thus you can simply combine the two words to create the phase name, as follows:

After the new moon, the sunlit portion is increasing, but less than half, so it is waxing crescent. After the first quarter, the sunlit portion is still increasing, but now it is more than half, so it is waxing gibbous. After the full moon (maximum illumination), the light continually decreases. So the waning gibbous phase occurs next. Following the third quarter is the waning crescent, which wanes until the light is completely gone — a new moon.

Some explains about relation between lunar phases and human relation:

When the moon is full, people, both male and female, will experience a slight change in their mood and behavior. They will suffer more from stress and become more emotionally unstable. Persons will be more sensitive to details and the slightest change could affect their emotional stableness. Work overload will cause an influx of intense stress. Persons will want alone time to deal with their own frustrations. They will lack the attention span to deal with others and will have a lack of assertiveness.
When a new moon occurs, people, male and female, will experience a sense of calmness. Their emotions will stabilize and their willingness to accept difficulties will reach its peak. The persons will be more energetic and open-minded. Optimism will also result from this moon phase. They will become more susceptible to change. Along with this sense of emotional tranquility, the individuals will get more work done. The quantity of work, no matter the amount, will not effect their emotions as significantly, as compared to when the moon is full. In addition to looking at different moods in relation to the phase of the moon, we will also be looking for variations between the genders.
Women and men have obvious differences. Stereotypically, women display their emotions more frequently than men do. Our prediction is that the moon will have a greater affect on the change in behavior of women than men. The men will not show this change in behavior as strongly as women will. We are also taking into consideration women’s moods in relation to the menstrual cycle; we realize that this time could alter our results. In our survey (see below) we will ask this question and see if it affects our outcome.

 

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June 2011
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