understanding the moon phases

moon_phasesOn the commute tonight, there was a full moon rising directly ahead of me, guiding and leading me all the way home.  The moon was so full and bright and the night sky was so clear that when I got home we went out as a family to admire and gaze upon God’s created “lesser light to govern the night” (Genesis 1:16).

In researching what causes the different moon phases, I discovered that my understanding for the first 60 years of my life has been in error.  Fortunately http://www.moonconnection.com offers a great illustration and explanation of the moon phases.  Here’s a brief excerpt:

“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.

… the new moon occurs when the moon is positioned between the earth and sun. The three objects are in approximate alignment. 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 than 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.”

So in the midst of this learning experience I can’t help but wonder …

Am I a full moon?

If not, am I waxing or waning?

Am I crescent or gibbous?

How about you?

Lord willing, I’ll dig a bit deeper into this analogy later this week …

Bernie

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About bwebbjr

A grandfather, father, husband, man, and a child of God who is following Christ Jesus and working out his salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work IN me, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). I dodged my first bullet with cancer when a cancerous polyp was removed in a sigmoid colectomy surgery in August 2007. Four years later, in the midst of a second colectomy surgery we discovered I had Stage IV metastatic colon cancer. Rather than colectomy surgery I had colostomy surgery, which now means the colostomy bag is a part of my everyday life ... with the emphasis on life. God has given us a peace beyond understanding as my wife and I have traveled this journey. By the grace of God I am blessed to be a 6 plus year cancer survivor aka warrior. In writing, I am often wrestling with my own personal struggles and beliefs and in the midst God leads me to a lesson He wants me to learn ... or sometimes He simply touches me in the revelation of Himself. My hope is that the result you see here might touch your heart and glorify God. And let me be clear ... I am not the only one with something to say. Please join in the conversation sharing your faith, your cancer experiences, etc. I would love to hear from you. Bernie
This entry was posted in Faith, origins aka evolution vs. creationsim, Reflections and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to understanding the moon phases

  1. I’ll say waxing gibbous- getting more of Christ “lite” (likeness) in me as I “phase” (age)

  2. The spiritual and the physical phases must be opposites. I think of John’s comment … He must increase and I must decrease … hmmmm.

    • bwebbjr says:

      That’s a great analogy and may make more sense than where I’m heading Richard … hope to finish post tonite or tomorrow. And yes, Jesus must increase and I must decrease.

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