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New Moon The side of the moon facing the Earth is not illuminated. Additionally, the moon is up through out the day, and down through out the night. For these reasons we can not see the moon during this phase. Waxing Crescent During this phase, part of the Moon is beginning to show. This lunar sliver can be seen each evening for a few minutes just after sunset. We say that the Moon is "waxing" because each night a little bit more is visible for a little bit longer. First Quarter During first quarter, 1/2 of the moon is visible for the first half of the evening, and then goes down, leaving the sky very dark. Waxing Gibbous When most of the Moon is visible we say it is a Gibbous Moon. Observers can see all but a little sliver of the moon. During this phase, the Moon remains in the sky most of the night. Full Moon When we can observe the entire face of the moon, we call it a Full Moon. A full moon will rise just as the evening begins, and will set about the time morning is ushered in. Waning Gibbous Like the Waxing Gibbous Moon, during this phase, we can see all but a sliver of the Moon. The difference is that instead of seeing more of the Moon each night, we begin to see less and less of the Moon each night. This is what the word "waning" means. Last Quarter During a Last Quarter Moon we can see exactly 1/2 of the Moon's lighted surface. Waning Crescent Finally, during a Waning Crescent Moon, observers on Earth can only see a small sliver of the Moon, and only just before morning. Each night less of the Moon is visible for less time.
The phases of the Moon depend on its position in relation to the Sun and Earth. As the Moon makes its way around the Earth, we see the bright parts of the Moon's surface at different angles. These are called "phases" of the Moon.