Q:

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

A:

Quick Answer

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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Full Answer

The moon goes through several phases during its orbit, either increasing or decreasing visibility of the portion of it that is illuminated. The entire half of the moon in shadows is visible during the new moon, with the entire half of the illuminated side visible during the full moon. During the first quarter and last quarter moons, one half of both the illuminated and shadowed side is visible. When a crescent moon is in the night sky, less than one half of the illuminated portion can be seen. If there is a gibbous moon, more than one half of the illuminated portion is visible.

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Related Questions

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    Why does the moon appear bright?

    A:

    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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  • Q:

    Where does "gibbous moon" mean?

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    The term "gibbous moon" refers to the phase of the moon's cycle when more than half but less than all of the moon is illuminated by the sun, making it visible from Earth. A gibbous moon can be either waxing or waning, explains Universe Today.

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    When does the moon disappear?

    A:

    The moon is not visible to observers on Earth during its new moon phase, when the moon is located on the same side of Earth as the sun. During this phase, the portion of the moon that is illuminated by the sun faces entirely away from the Earth.

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    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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