Moon Phases

What is a waning crescent moon?

Waning crescent: Nine views of thinner and thinner moon against a pink sky.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Meiying Lee in Taipei, Taiwan, captured this photo of a waning crescent moon on July 12, 2021, and wrote: “As the sky gets brighter, the waning moon with the age of 28.5 days gradually becomes the same color as the sky and disappears in the sky finally. The changes of the sky are as beautiful and changeable as pressed powder.” Thank you, Meiying!

You’ll see a waning crescent moon – sometimes called an old moon – in the east before dawn.

On each successive morning, a waning crescent moon will show us less and less of its lighted portion, or day side. Each day, it rises closer to the sunrise, heading for new moon, when the moon will be between the Earth and sun.

A lake shore at sunset with the moon and two bright planets.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | James Trezza in Mt. Sinai, New York, captured this photo of the moon together with Mercury and Venus on May 13, 2021, and wrote: “The waxing crescent moon, 4.5% illuminated, setting next to Mercury, with Venus about to set at the bottom!” Thank you, James!

The illuminated side of a waning crescent moon always points eastward, or in the direction of sunrise.

What’s more, the lit side of waning crescent points in the direction of the moon’s daily motion relative to the backdrop stars and planets of the zodiac. That direction is also east.

Many people miss the waning crescent moon because it’s a morning moon, visible before sunrise. But it’s fun to follow the waning crescent day by day, as it inches into the dawn glare.

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

New moon
Waxing crescent moon
First quarter moon
Waxing gibbous moon
Full moon
Waning gibbous moon
Last quarter moon
Waning crescent moon

Read more: 4 keys to understanding moon phases

Exceedingly thin crescent moon on an orange twilight background.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Steven A. Sweet of Lunar 101 Moon Book caught this amazing little waning crescent moon – only 16 hours and 54 minutes from new moon – on August 18, 2020. Congratulations, Steven!

Bottom line: A waning crescent moon falls between the last quarter moon phase and the new moon phase. You’ll find a waning crescent moon in the east before sunrise.

Check out EarthSky’s guide to the bright planets and more

Top 4 keys to understanding moon phases

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January 1, 2022
Moon Phases

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Deborah Byrd

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