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Do you know your waning from your waxing? The Moon moves from dark to new, waxing to full, and waning back to dark in the space of 29.5 days. If you want to follow the lunar cycle for stargazing or spiritual reasons or are just keen to understand the different stages, read on. Express.co.uk explains how to tell what phase the Moon is in.
Moon phase today
On January 20 the Moon is in the First Quarter phase, which occurs about a week after the New Moon.
This means exactly half of the Moon is illuminated and the other half is dark.
You can see the Moon high overhead at sunset until midnight, when it will set in the West.
On January 21, the Moon will be in its Waxing phase, with the moon becoming brighter each day until the Full Moon.
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What are the eight Moon phases?
As the Moon moves through its cycle, its shape changes depending on how much of it you can see.
This depends on how much of it is facing the Sun, as the Sun’s light reflects off the Moon enabling you to see it.
The main four stages are the Full Moon, New Moon, First Quarter and Last Quarter, but there are four minor stages in between these stages.
The lunar cycle starts with the New Moon and ends with the Waning crescent.
The New Moon is when the Moon’s orbit around Earth is between the Earth and the Sun.
From where we are standing on Earth, the Moon isn’t visible because the lit-up side is facing away from Earth.
The second phase of the Lunar Cycle is the Waxing crescent.
This happens a few days after the New Moon and is when a faint crescent-shaped Moon appears in the sky.
This lasts for about a week and is visible between about 9am and 9pm.
The First Quarter phase is when roughly 50 percent of the Moon is illuminated by the Sun.
A First Quarter Moon rises at Noon and sets at midnight – it is visible in the afternoon and early evening.
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The Waxing Gibbous phase is next, and this is when the Moon is between a half Moon and a Full Moon.
The Moon is getting bigger, but it isn’t quite Full yet.
Waxing Gibbous Moons are visible in the late afternoon and most of the night, rising at 3pm and setting at 3am.
The Full Moon is when 100 percent of the Moon is illuminated.
You can see a Full Moon all night, since it rises at 6pm and sets at 6am.
A Waning Gibbous is when the Moon starts to shrink again.
Waning Gibbous Moons are visible for most of the night and early morning, rising at 9pm and setting at 9am.
The Last Quarter is the reverse of the First Quarter – the Sun is now shining on the other half of the visible face of the Moon.
Half of the Moon is illuminated and visible between late night and morning.
During the Last Quarter, the Moon rises at Midnight and sets at noon.
The Waning crescent phase is the final stage of the lunar cycle before it repeats again, going back to the New Moon.
The illuminated part of the Moon decreases even more.
This phase is visible pre-dawn to early afternoon, between 3am and 3pm
How to tell what phase the Moon is in
By learning the different stages off by heart, you’ll be able to tell which phase the Moon is in just by looking at them.
If you haven’t committed the lunar phases to memory, you can simply check Moon Giant’s tracker here.
There are plenty of apps that let you know the Moon phase too, such as The Moon app or Phases of the Moon.
You can even add the Moon phases to your Google calendar by clicking on settings, add calendar, and then browse calendars of interest.
Click the ‘Phases of the Moon’ button and you’re good to go!
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