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Where’s the moon? Waxing crescent

When you see the moon as a slim crescent in the west after sunset, it’s always waxing. Is that Earth’s shadow on the moon? No, it’s the moon’s own shadow.

July 6, 2016 waxing crescent moon with earthshine - setting behind the sun, in early evening darkness - on top of the Christmas Pass Hills near Mutare, Zimbabwe, via Peter Lowenstein.

July 6, 2016 waxing crescent moon with earthshine – setting behind the sun, in early evening darkness – on top of the Christmas Pass Hills near Mutare, Zimbabwe, via Peter Lowenstein.

A waxing crescent moon – sometimes called a young moon – is always seen in the west after sunset.

At this moon phase, the Earth, moon and sun are located nearly on a line in space. If they were more precisely on a line, as they are at new moon, we wouldn’t see the moon. The moon would travel across the sky during the day, lost in the sun’s glare.

But a waxing crescent moon is far enough away from that Earth-sun line to be visible near the sun’s glare – that is, in the west after sunset. This moon phase is seen one day to several days after new moon. On these days, the moon rises one hour to several hours behind the sun and follows the sun across the sky during the day. When the sun sets, and the sky darkens, the moon pops into view in the western sky.

The moon is now waxing toward first quarter. Next first quarter moon will be July 12, 2016 at 0052 UTC. Translate to your time zone. This July, 2016 waxing crescent moon is near the very bright planet Jupiter in the evening sky. See the chart below, or check out EarthSky’s guide to the bright planets.

The best thing about the July, 2016 waxing crescent moon? It's near Jupiter! Photo from July by Suzanne Murphy Photography in Wisconsin. Thanks, Suzanne!

Fun fact about the July, 2016 waxing crescent moon? It’s near Jupiter! July 7, 2016 Jupiter and moon via our friend Suzanne Murphy Photography in Wisconsin. Thanks, Suzanne!

Watch for the waxing crescent moon to be close to the dazzling planet Jupiter for several days, centered on or near July 8-9. Read more.

The moon appears close to Jupiter after sunset for several days, centered on or near July 8-9, 2016. Read more about Jupiter and the moon.

Note that a crescent moon has nothing to do with Earth’s shadow on the moon. The only time Earth’s shadow can fall on the moon is at full moon, during a lunar eclipse. There is a shadow on a crescent moon, but it’s the moon’s own shadow. Night on the moon happens on the part of the moon submerged in the moon’s own shadow. Likewise, night on Earth happens on the part of Earth submerged in Earth’s own shadow.

Because the waxing crescent moon is nearly on a line with the Earth and sun, its illuminated hemisphere – or day side – is facing mostly away from us. We see only a slender fraction of the day side: a crescent moon. Each evening, because the moon is moving eastward in orbit around Earth, the moon appears farther from the sunset glare. It is moving farther from the Earth-sun line in space. Each evening, as the moon’s orbital motion carries it away from the Earth-sun line, we see more of the moon’s day side. Thus the crescent in the west after sunset appears to wax, or grow fatter each evening.

Here’s more to look for in tonight’s sky

EarthSky Facebook friend Jenney Disimon in Sabah, North Borneo caught the very young waxing crescent moon on July 6, 2016.

EarthSky Facebook friend Jenney Disimon in Sabah, North Borneo caught the very young waxing crescent moon on July 6, 2016. Thank you, Jenney.

Beautiful example of earthshine on the waxing crescent moon of July 7, 2016 from our friend Patrick Casaert in Meaux, France, of the Facebook page La Lune the Moon.

Beautiful example of earthshine on the waxing crescent moon of July 7, 2016 from our friend Patrick Casaert in Meaux, France, of the Facebook page La Lune The Moon. Thanks, Patrick!

The pale glow on the darkened portion (night side) of a crescent moon is called earthshine. Is caused by light reflected from Earth’s day side onto the moon. After all, when you see a crescent moon in Earth’s sky, any moon people looking back at our world would see a nearly full Earth. Read more: What is earthshine?

As the moon orbits Earth, it changes phase in an orderly way. Follow these links to understand the various phases of the moon.

Four keys to understanding moon phases

Where’s the moon? Waxing crescent
Where’s the moon? First quarter
Where’s the moon? Waxing gibbous
What’s special about a full moon?
Where’s the moon? Waning gibbous
Where’s the moon? Last quarter
Where’s the moon? Waning crescent
Where’s the moon? New phase

Moon in 2016: Phases, cycles, eclipses, supermoons and more

Deborah Byrd

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