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Astronomy for Kids: Learn About the Phases of the Moon

Updated on February 1, 2013

When you look up at the moon, it may either be a full circle, a partial circle or a crescent (banana) shape. Or you may not see the moon at all. Why does the Moon change day to day throughout each month?

It takes the Moon 29 days to orbit the Earth. This is a lunar month. During the lunar month, the Moon goes through phases.

The Moon doesn’t make any light of its own. We only see the Moon because sunlight lights up its surface. As the Moon orbits the Earth, the amount that we see lit changes. These changes are known as the phases of the Moon.

Phases of the moon during one month
Phases of the moon during one month

Waxing and Waning

During a new Moon, we see the side of the Moon that is not being lit by the Sun. The Moon is there but we can’t see it. Then the Moon starts waxing. This means getting bigger. The Moon waxes until it becomes a full Moon. Then we see the Moon as a shiny circle in the sky. The Moon starts to wane, which means get smaller. It wanes until it becomes a new Moon again. Then the lunar month is complete and a new lunar month begins.

The phases of the moon are a cycle. A cycle is something that happens over and over.

Names for the Different Moon Phases


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    • JoanCA profile image

      JoanCA 5 years ago

      You're welcome, psychicdog.

    • profile image 5 years ago

      waxing and waning gibbous ? Never knew.Thanks Joan.