Q:

Why does the moon appear bright?

A:

Quick Answer

The moon appears bright because the side visible on Earth reflects the light from the sun. As the moon and the Earth move around their respective orbits, different portions of the moon are visible to people on Earth, depending on the angle at which the light hits the moon and reflects back to Earth. The moon reflects back about 12 percent of the light from the sun that hits it.

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Full Answer

The moon appears brightest during the full moon phase of its cycle. During a full moon, the moon is directly opposite the sun, and a full hemisphere reflects back the light. During the opposite phase, known as a new moon, the moon is located on the same side of Earth, and the sun and none of the illuminated portion is visible on Earth. Next to the new moon phase, the moon is at its least bright during the waxing crescent and waning crescent phases, when only a sliver of the illuminated portion is visible on Earth. The next brightest states are the first and last quarter moons, when about half of the illuminated hemisphere is visible. In between a full moon and the quarter phases, the waxing gibbous and waning gibbous phases display less than the whole, but more than half, of the hemisphere illuminated by the sun.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    How much of the moon is always lit by the sun?

    A:

    Half of the moon is always lit by the sun, unless the sun is eclipsed by the Earth. The portion of the illuminated moon viewed from Earth depends on the moon's orbit. As the moon orbits, different portions of shadow and illumination are seen from Earth, creating the moon's phases.

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  • Q:

    What causes the phases of the moon?

    A:

    The phases of the moon are caused by the light from the sun and the position of the moon with regard to the Earth and sun. Depending on these positions, the moon appears to be in any one of eight major phases from Earth. These phases are full, waning gibbous, third quarter, waning crescent, new, waxing crescent, first quarter and waxing gibbous. Each phase lasts approximately seven days.

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  • Q:

    What causes moon phases?

    A:

    Moon phases are caused by the motions of the Earth and moon as they relate to the sun. Phases occur as the Earth-facing side of the moon changes over the course of 29.5 days when the moon revolves around the planet. When the angle of sunlight reflecting off the moon changes, humans observe different lighting levels from the moon.

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  • Q:

    Why do we see the phases of the moon?

    A:

    The lunar phases are caused by the changing angles of the sun, the moon and Earth, as the moon revolves around Earth. Different amounts of the illuminated part of the moon are visible from Earth. The lunar phases include the new moon, first quarter, full moon, third quarter, crescent and gibbous.

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