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Where’s the moon? Waxing gibbous

Next full moon – closest supermoon since 1948 – will come on November 14, 2016. Between now and then, look for the moon each late afternoon and evening.

November 11, 2016 moon as captured by our friend Lunar 101 - Moon Book.

November 11, 2016 moon as captured by our friend Lunar 101 – Moon Book.

A waxing gibbous moon appears high in the east at sunset. It’s more than half-lighted, but less than full.

That’s another way of saying that a waxing gibbous moon phase falls between a first quarter moon and a full moon. Next full moon comes on November 14 at 1352 UTC; translate to your timezone). It’ll be the closest full supermoon since 1948. If you’re east of the International Date Line (for example, in the Americas), watch for it on the night of November 13 and especially the morning of November 14. If you’re west of the International Date Line (Australia, Asia …), watch for it on the evening on November 14.

Relative to a new moon – which is more or less between the Earth and sun, located near the sun along our line of sight – a waxing gibbous moon has moved in its orbit so that it’s now relatively far from the sun in our sky.

A waxing gibbous moon rises during the hours between noon and sunset. It sets in the wee hours after midnight.

Not a full moon, but pretty close, from Odilon Simões Corrêa in Brazil.

Waxing gibbous moon from Odilon Simões Corrêa in Brazil. We all see (approximately) the same moon phase on the same day.

People often see a waxing gibbous moon in the afternoon, shortly after moonrise, while it’s ascending in the east as the sun is descending in the west. It’s easy to see a waxing gibbous moon in the daytime because, at this phase of the moon, a large fraction of the moon’s day side is facing our way.

Thus a waxing gibbous moon is more noticeable in the sky than a crescent moon, with only a slim fraction of the lunar day side visible. Also, a waxing gibbous moon is far from the sun on the sky’s dome, so the sun’s glare isn’t hiding it from view.

Any moon that appears more than half lighted but less than full is called a gibbous moon. The word gibbous comes from a root word that means hump-backed. A gibbous moon can also be a waning gibbous, in the week between full moon and last quarter moon.

Waxing gibbous moon about to set on the night of August 12-13. The golden color stems from the fact that - when we see a moon low in the sky - we're seeing it through a greater-than-usual amount of atmosphere. Photo by Peter Lowenstein.

Waxing gibbous moon about to set, late at night. The golden color stems from the fact that – when we see a moon low in the sky – we’re seeing it through a greater-than-usual thickness of Earth’s atmosphere. Photo by Peter Lowenstein.

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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