In our entire solar system, the only object that shines with its own light is the Sun. That light always beams onto Earth and Moon from the direction of the Sun, illuminating half of our planet in its orbit and reflecting off the surface of the Moon to create moonlight.
The sun is the nearest star from the earth. It is a medium sized star consisting of masses of hot gas. More than 70% hydrogen gas is present in the sun. The sun revolves around the galaxy and it also revolves around its own orbit. The earth revolves around the sun in its elliptical orbit. Thus, in the course of revolution, the earth reaches far from the sun and comes near to the sun due to its elliptical orbit around the sun. The moon is the natural satellite of the earth. It revolves around the earth in its elliptical orbit. In the course of revolution of the earth and the moon, sometimes the moon the earth and the sun lies in the same straight line. Sometimes, the moon lies between the earth and the sun. Similarly, sometimes the earth lies between the sun the moon. In the course of revolving around the earth, the moon also revolves around the sun.
The planets and satellites do not have their own source of light for shining. They shine by reflecting the light from the sun. The moon is the natural satellite of the earth. It does not have its own source of light. The moon always presents its same face towards the earth. When the reflected light of the moon reaches the earth, the moon becomes visible. We see only that part of the moon which reflects the sunlight towards the earth.
In the new moon phase, none of the part of the moon that is facing Earth is lit by the sun. It appears as only a dark outline. During the waxing crescent phase, the moon looks small. Only a tiny sliver of the moon's side that is facing Earth is lit by the sun. The next phase is the first quarter phase. In it, half of the moon nearest side is lit by the sun. We see it as about one-fourth of a full moon. During the waxing gibbous phase, more of the moon is lit. Even so, it is not quite a full moon yet. In the full moon phase, all of the side of the moon that is facing Earth is lit by the sun. It appears as a large, bright circle. During the waning gibbous phase, some of the part that was lit as a full moon begins to fall into the shadows. In the last quarter phase, a different side of the moon is lit. Again, the moon appears as one-fourth full. During the waning crescent phase, the moon slips further into shadows. It is a thin crescent shape once more. After this phase, the entire lunar cycle begins again with a new moon.
When the moon lies in between the sun and the earth, the reflected light from the moon does not reach the earth and the moon is not visible. This day is called the new moon day. The dark side of the moon faces the earth on the new moon day.
On the night just after the new moon day, a crescent moon can be seen. The other part of the moon is only faintly visible. The crescent goes on increasing till the 15th day from the new moon day when the full bright face of the moon is visible. The day is called the full moon day.
The gradual increase in the bright disc of the moon is called waxing of the moon. The bright disc of the moon increases for 15 days after the new moon day. This duration is called the bright half. After the full moon, the bright face of the moon goes on decreasing every day for 15 days. This duration is called the dark half. The gradual decrease in the bright disc of the moon is called the waning of the moon. So, the waxing and waning of the disc of the moon, as the moon revolves around the earth, is called the phases of the moon.
On the full moon day, the moon rises in the eastern sky and it rises 50 minutes later the next day. The moon revolves around the earth in its own orbit. The moon completes one revolution around the earth in 27 days.
This duration is called the sidereal month. Similarly, the duration between two consecutive new moons or full moons is 291 days. This duration is called the synodic month. Though the Moon is often thought of as a nighttime visitor, it’s also visible during the day as a faint, pale presence. The best times to see a daytime Moon are perhaps during the first and last quarter phases, when the Moon is high enough above the horizon and at about 90 degrees from the Sun in the sky. This helps make the Sun’s reflected light bright enough to see as it reflects off of the Moon. The Moon can be seen in the day lit sky at any phase except for the new moon, when it’s invisible to us, and full moon, when it’s below the horizon during the day. The crescent through quarter phases are high in the sky during the day, but the daytime gibbous phases can be glimpsed only just before the Sun sets.
Moon phases are so impactful they’re even a popular tattoo design! The moon signifies wisdom, intuition, birth, death, reincarnation, and a spiritual connection. Moon cycles are similar to the cycle of a seed: the seed grows into a flower, then blooms, and then dies. The moon also represents our deepest personal needs. We can use the knowledge and energy of the moon’s cycle to better connect with ourselves. Once we are attuned to the moon, we can activate her innate powers and embody her innate qualities of fluidity, creativity, femininity, and change. Practicing a moon salutation is a potent way to harness the unique energy and characteristics of the moon.