Where is the Moon?


"Where is the Moon?” Ahmed wondered as he looked at the dark night sky. The Moon is nowhere to be found. “But, it was there. I saw it.” The sky was clear, so the Moon was not hiding behind the clouds. Ahmed decided to wonder no more and ask his father where the Moon went.

It turned out the Moon does not disappear or go anywhere; sometimes, we just cannot see it. The Moon has different phases, and the phases of the Moon are how we see it throughout the month. Let us see what the phases of the Moon are.

Ahmed decided to watch the Moon with his father every day to understand all the phases of the Moon. Ahmed’s father said that it is completely dark and that it does not emit any light; what we see is the sunlight reflected on it. How much we see of that light is what makes up the phase of the Moon. One side of the Moon is always completely lit by sunlight, but from our location on Earth we see only a section that is lit up, or sometimes nothing at all.

The phases of the Moon as noticed by Ahmed and his father are: New Moon, Waxing Crescent, First Quarter, Waxing Gibbous, Full Moon, Waning Gibbous, Third Quarter, Waning Crescent, and Dark Moon.

As the Moon rotates around the Earth, and when it is located completely between us and the Sun, this is the phase where we cannot see it, and it is called “New Moon”. This is like the day when Ahmed could not see the Moon in the sky at all. As the Moon moves around the Earth, a portion of its lit side becomes visible to us on Earth, like when it is a “Crescent”. How much we see of the Moon depends on its rotation around the Earth. A “Full Moon”, for example, is when we can see the whole Moon and not just a portion of it; this happens when the Earth is located between the Sun and the Moon. This allows us to see sunlight reflected fully on the Moon. Ahmed noticed that the Full Moon happens once a month.

So, what is waxing and waning, Ahmed asked? Waxing is when we see more of the Moon as we approach Full Moon, and Waning is when we see less of the Moon as we approach New Moon.

Ahmed’s father told him that the Moon and the Sun do not just disappear. They are always there in the sky, and it is only our location in relation to them that dictates how we see them. Next time, when you do not see the Moon, do not worry; it is up in the sky. Moreover, if you want to know when you will see the Full Moon, you should use a lunar calendar; the Hijri Year uses the lunar calendar. The phases of the moon decide the beginning of fasting during the Holy Month of Ramadan, for example.

Ahmed looked at the sky and wondered about all the other stars and planets and about how much he does not know. It was a good thing he knew something about the Moon, though.



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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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