The moon’s effect on earth can be seen in nature in many different ways, such as the way the phases of the moon affect the tides. But one of the questions that often comes up is, can the moon ever be completely dark?
The moon can be completely dark during a new moon. Although the moon does not emit its own light, but rather reflects the Sun’s light, when the moon moves between the earth and the Sun, the moon appears dark. During the new moon phase, the moon is not visible to us.
The New Moon happens every 29 days and is the start of a new lunar cycle. This cycle has 8 phases, and each stage looks different. The phases of the moon are:
- New moon
- Waxing crescent moon
- Waxing gibbous moon
- Full moon
- Waning gibbous moon
- Last quarter moon
- Waning crescent moon
What are the Phases of the Moon?
Let’s take a look at the phases of the moon in more detail…
The New Moon
The new moon happens when the Sun, Moon, and Earth are directly aligned. When the one side of the moon is entirely illuminated by the Sun and the other side, facing the earth, is entirely in shadow.
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The shadow part of the moon is invisible to us, and for that reason, it is called the dark moon sometimes.
The Waxing Crescent Moon
Waxing means growing, and it is so named because this is the first phase of the moon after a new moon, and it is also when the moon is seen again.
In this phase, the moon starts to move out of the shadow and appears to be growing bigger.
The First-Quarter Moon
The first-quarter moon gets its name because the moon has now traveled the first quarter of its way around the earth. This phase is also known as the half-moon because half of the moon is visible.
During this phase, the sunlight reflects only half of the moon facing towards earth while the other half is dark.
The Waxing Gibbous Moon
This phase of the moon appears almost complete as this phase happens right before the full moon. The moon seems to have an oval shape which is where it gets the name gibbous.
In this phase, the Sun is reflected on most of the moon facing the earth; the moon is almost entirely evident.
During the full moon, the moon is completely visible to us. In this phase, the side of the moon facing the earth reflects the Sun completely, and this is what is seen on earth, which is the direct opposite of what happens during a new moon.
Waning Gibbous Moon
The word waning means to become less or to decrease; this tells us that the moon’s light will become less visible from this point forward.
In this phase, the moon becomes less visible to us as less of the moon reflects the Sun. In this phase, we can again see the oval shape of the moon.
During this phase, the moon has moved three-quarters of its way around the earth and is now entering the last quarter of its journey around the planet.
In this phase, the other half of the moon is visible to us, which is the opposite of the first-quarter moon.
Waning Crescent Moon
We can again only see a small crescent of the moon in this phase.
The waning crescent moon is the last phase of the moon before it becomes dark and starts a new cycle.
Can Everyone on Earth See the Moon at the Same Time?
The moon is visible to everybody on earth simultaneously. However, it is not visible in the same way.
The people on the South side of the horizon will see the moon as it appears, and the people on the north side of the horizon will see the upside-down version of the same moon. The moon will still look the same.
What is a Super Moon?
A super moon appears when the timing of the full moon is the same as when the moon is closest to the earth. When this happens, the moon appears bigger and brighter to us.
The moon is closer to the earth sometimes during its orbit because of the gravitational forces that the tides have towards the moon. These gravitational forces pull the moon closer to the planet.
There is an average of about 3 or 4 super moons in a year, although they are not always apparent as super moons because the moon is not always a lot closer to the earth than usual.
What is a Blood Moon?
The moon is called a blood moon when it appears to have a rusty red color; this happens when the earth’s shadow moves entirely over the moon, causing a total lunar eclipse. During a blood moon, the Sun’s rays penetrate the shadow and cause the moon to glow red to us.
A blood moon is sometimes called a wolf moon. When the lunar eclipse happens during a super moon, it is called a super wolf moon or a super blood moon. This does not happen often, and it is a sight to be seen when it does happen!
What is a Blue Moon?
FUN FACT: The phrase ‘once in a blue moon’ refers to something that does not happen often. This phrase originated because of the rarity of the blue moon.
There are actually 2 scenarios that are referred to as the ‘blue moon’. It can refer to…
- The second full moon in one month, (which does not happen often).
- The full moon’s color when it appears blue because of smoke, water particles, volcanic ash, or certain types of clouds.
After the eruption of the Krakatoa volcano in 1883, a blue moon was visible for months because of the ash from the volcano.
How Does the Moon Affect Nature?
It’s not just the ocean tides that are affected by the moon. There are several things in nature that are affected by our moon. Let’s take a look at some of them…
The Moons Affect on Ocean Tides
The moon has a gravitational pull called the tidal force, which causes the water on earth to be pulled towards the direction of the moon. When this happens, high tide is formed at that particular point, and as a result, low tide is formed at the opposite end.
For more detailed information on ocean tides, check out my article “Ocean Tides Explained: What, Why & How”
The Moons Affect on Birds
The lunar cycle has a big impact on the lifestyle of birds. Some of the moons affect on them are…
- the moon navigates the migration of birds
- the moon impacts birds reproduction cycles
- the moon impacts when birds hunt. (They do so more often during a full moon because they can see better in the light of the moon).
The Moons Affect on Plants
The moon has the same effect on the water in the soil, that it has on the water of the tides. The uplift of the water in soil due to the moon causes the seeds to swell and germinate quicker. Who knew?!
The Moons Affect on Marine Life
As the tide changes, many small aquatic animals will move with the tides; this influences the food supply for the other animals in that area. As the supply of food gets less, the animals’ mating rituals will also change. This cycle is repeated every lunar month.
The moon appears dark when it goes through the first lunar phase called the new moon. During the lunar phases, the moon appears to us in different ways. It is also during the lunar phases that the moon affects the tides, natural life, and plants.
The moon looks different at certain times, and in certain conditions but it is only our perspective of the moon that changes, in reality the moon stays the same.
The moon has been a source of fascination to people for as long as we existed. The effects of the moon on life on earth are only now starting to be understood, and as we learn more about the moon, the fascination grows. One thing is sure, whether we see the moon or not, it is a constant in our sky, and just like the Sun, it will be back tomorrow.