About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Friday, October 21, 2011

What’s the difference between a full moon and a new moon?

Enough crazy things have happened this week that I check the calendar to see if it was a full moon. Nope, only a last quarter moon phase.
Lunar libration with phase Oct 2007 450px
Each month Earth’s Moon passes through eight phases in about 29.5 days. These phases are named after how much of the moon we can see.
  1. New Moon or Dark Moon is when the side of the moon facing the Earth is not illuminated by the sun and you see no moon.
  2. Waxing Crescent is when part of the Moon is beginning to show. Each day the moon "waxes" a little bit more.
  3. First Quarter is when 1/2 of the moon is visible for the first half of the evening, and then goes down, leaving the sky very dark.
  4. Waxing Gibbous is when most of the Moon is visible. During this phase, the Moon remains in the sky most of the night.
  5. Full Moon is when you can observe the entire face of the moon from evening to early morning.
  6. Waning Gibbous is when you see less and less of the Moon each night.
  7. Last Quarter is when you can see exactly 1/2 of the Moon's lighted surface.
  8. Waning Crescent is when you see less and less of the moon until it’s a New Moon again.
Each month’s full moon has a descriptive name too. The following are from the Native Americans:
• Full Wolf Moon in January because the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages.
• Full Snow Moon in February since the heaviest snow usually falls during this month.
• Full Worm Moon in March as the temperatures warm and worms awaken.
• Full Pink Moon in April is when early pink wild ground phlox bloom.
• Full Flower Moon in May is when flowers are abundant everywhere.
• Full Strawberry Moon in June is the time for harvesting strawberries.
• The Full Buck Moon in July is the month when the deer bucks get new antlers.
• Full Sturgeon Moon in August is the month sturgeon, a large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water were caught.
• Full Corn Moon or Full Harvest Moon in September is marked when corn was supposed to be harvested.
• Full Hunter’s Moon or Full Harvest Moon in October
• Full Beaver Moon in November because the beavers are now actively preparing for winter. It is sometimes also referred to as the Frosty Moon.
• The Full Cold Moon; or the Full Long Nights Moon in December is the time when nights are at their longest and darkest.

Occasionally (about every 2.7 years) there are two Full Moons in the same month. This is referred to as a Blue Moon. The next blue moon will be in August 2012.

Sources:  
- Lunar libration with phase Oct 2007 450px.gif http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lunar_libration_with_phase_Oct_2007_450px.gif
- Moon Calendar photo: Used by permission of The University of Texas McDonald Observatory http://stardate.org/nightsky/moon   
- Full Moon Names and Their Meanings http://www.farmersalmanac.com/full-moon-names/

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