The 8 Moon Phases In Order

The 8 moon phases in order are New moon, Waxing Crescent, First Quarter, Waxing Gibbous, Full moon, Waning Gibbous, Last Quarter, and finally Waning Crescent.

The moon has phases the wanes, waxes, and even sometimes we can’t even see the moon during its phase. To learn all about the moon and its 8 phases, check out this guide.

By refocusing our space program on Mars for America’s future, we can restore the sense of wonder and adventure in space exploration that we knew in the summer of 1969. We won the moon race; now it’s time for us to live and work on Mars, first on its moons and then on its surface. – Buzz Aldrin

The 8 Phases of the Moon

The moon. Image source: Pixabay

Before we delve too deep into the 8 phases of the moon it is important to define some crucial terms.

Definitions Of Different Moons

The definition of a waxing moon, according to Dictionary.com (found here) is:

the moon at any time after new moon and before full moon, so calledbecause its illuminated area is increasing

  • Think of it as waxing= getting larger in size or growing

The definition of a waning moon, as defined by Dictionary.com (found here) is:

the moon at any time after full moon and before new moon (so calledbecause its illuminated area is decreasing)

  • Think of it as waning= decreasing in size, or getting smaller

Now that we have the definitions covered, let’s move onto the 8 phases of the lunar cycle.

The 8 Moon Phases

Image source: Pixabay

The 8 phases (in order) are:

  1. New moon
  2. Waxing Crescent
  3. First Quarter
  4. Waxing Gibbous
  5. Full moon
  6. Waning Gibbous
  7. Third Quarter
  8. Waning Crescent

1. New Moon

This is the beginning portion of the moon’s phases. A new moon happens when the moon is located between the sun and the Earth. We typically cannot see a new moon since the dark side of the moon is facing the Earth.

New moons can create a solar eclipse where the moon blocks the sun’s rays and creates a shadow on parts of the Earth.

2. Waxing Crescent

During the Waxing Crescent phase, the moon travels east in the sky. The waxing crescent phase of the moon begins¬†once we can see a tiny sliver of the moon after a new moon. There are times when you might be able to see the rest of the moon as well, even if it is dark because of a phenomenon called “earthshine” in which the Earth reflects sunlight to the moon.

This phase occurs a few days after a new moon.

3. First Quarter

The next phase of the lunar cycle is the first quarter. During this phase happens when you can see half of the moon that is illuminated. The name “first quarter” comes from the fact that at this stage the lunar cycle is 1/4 of the way completed. Not everyone will see the same halves of the moon lit up during this phase, primarily because it depends¬†on your location. So, some people may see the right half illuminated while others might see the left half illuminated.

4. Waxing Gibbous Moon

This phase essentially covers the time between the first quarter phase and the full moon phase. the words waxing gibbous describe what the phase is pretty well. Waxing means growing larger, and the word gibbous refers to the shape, so waxing gibbous essentially means “growing shape”. The moon will get more and more illuminated until the moon is fully illuminated, which starts the next phase.

5. Full Moon

As you probably already know, a full moon is when the entire moon face is completely illuminated by the sun. Full moons occur when the sun and moon are on opposite sides of Earth. Technically the moon is only 100% illuminated by the sun for a few moments, but this phase also covers when the moon looks full but isn’t.

When the moon is at its closest point to the Earth in its orbit it is called a supermoon, and at its farthest point, it is called a micro-moon. Another cool thing that occasionally happens during a full moon is when the moon passes through our Earth’s shadow, called a lunar eclipse. During a lunar eclipse, the moon will be a reddish color, like the picture above shows.

6. Waning Gibbous Moon

Like we covered above, waxing means increasing and waning means decreasing. So, in this case, the waning gibbous moon means that the shape is decreasing. The waning gibbous phase lasts until the moon is half illuminated.

7. Third Quarter Moon

This phase is basically the exact opposite of the first quarter moon. This is when the moon is half lit up in the sky, and it also signals when the lunar phase is 3/4 of the way completed.

8. Waning Crescent Moon

This is the final stage of the lunar cycle. This phase starts when the sun illuminates less than half of the moon and continues on until the New Moon phase. During this phase, we can also see the effect of “Earthshine”, just like we can during the new moon phase.

This phase “ends” when the moon and the sun rise at the same time, which starts the lunar cycle over again starting with the new moon.

Lunar Cycle (Phase) Calendar

To check and see what phase we are in, you can Google “Lunar cycle calendar” and will find lots of websites dedicated to it. I personally like this calendar (found here) because it is specific to location and lets you learn a little bit more by giving time and when a certain event will occur.

Interesting Lunar Facts

  • We only see one side of the moon because the moon rotates on its axis at the same time the Earth does
  • Our tides are based on the lunar cycle
  • 12 people have walked on the moon, and they are all American
  • We have no idea how the moon actually formed, and it has been theorized that the moon and the Earth at some point billions of years ago collided
  • It is believed that the moon has a similar mantle that Earth has, but scientists are unsure about the mantle and core of the moon
  • At one point the moon had volcanoes
  • After the USSR sent a spacecraft to the moon in the 50’s the USA was close to blowing up a nuke on the moon to show dominance and superiority (luckily cooler heads prevailed on that decision)
  • NASA is planning to send astronauts back to the moon in the near future, and setting a lunar base up may also be in the works

About The Author

Kate Broome

Kate is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a Bachelor's degree and is currently working on getting her Master's degree at Southern New Hampshire University. She loves to read and learn about all things space, a fanatic of NASA and the latest space science news. She currently lives in Texas with her two pit bulls, Lennox and Bentley.

Comments (8)

  1. Not sure if the 1st one will appear but right after the Waning Gibbous Moon, you get the Waning Crescent Moon, then No Moon, next would be a New Moon. Hope I was able to help, Dan

  2. Really cool, tonight, January 21st, 2019, the moon looks to be at it’s farthest point away from our earth. It’s completely red & pretty much I had to look directly over head to even see it, lol I started to fall backwards but got a snapshot of it & it looked great. It’s sorta unbelievable just how large it can be when it’s closest to our earth & then where it is, like it is on this night, being so small. I tried to get a picture with my Sony Cyber-Shot Camera but my grandson played with it the last time he was here so it took about 10 snap-shots at a time & all out of focus, plus the screen turns black because I had the zoom all the way out, so no moon shots tonight but my iPhone managed to get a couple good ones. If anyone else got to see the Blood Moon, I am here in Michigan & at 11:45 it was still all red & straight up in the sky. Cool…..

    1. Well, right after that phase, you get the Crescent Moon, then no Moon, then a New Moon.
      Hope I was able to help you out. Dan

  3. At the beginning of this article it states:

    “The 8 phases (in order) are:

    1. New moon
    2. Waxing Crescent
    3. First Quarter
    4. Waxing Gibbous
    5. Full moon
    6. Waning Gibbous
    7. Third Quarter
    8. Waxing Crescent”

    However, later on in the article phase 8 is described as WANING Crescent, not Waxing. I believe there is a typo mistake in the ordered list at the beginning of this article.

  4. Hello Kate,

    I’m pretty sure that (from Earth) only the leftmost side of a 1st quarter moon is going to be illuminated regardless of ones location on the planet.

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