Moon Phases

What is a waning crescent moon?

Waning crescent: Nine views of thinner and thinner moon against a dark-to-pink sky.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Meiying Lee in Taipei, Taiwan, captured this photo of a waning crescent moon on April 29, 2022, and wrote: “This is the changing process of the waning moon rising in the early morning yesterday (April 29) and finally disappearing into the sky. When the waning moon rises in the dark sky, it appears red due to atmospheric scattering. Before the sun rises, the sky slowly turns orange, and the moon turns a beautiful golden color with it. At last, the sky became brighter and brighter, and the moon gradually turned gray and white, and finally merged with the sky and disappeared.” 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 the sun.

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.

A sliver of a waning crescent moon against a grayish sky.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Mohamed Mohamed of Tripoli, Libya, captured this waning crescent moon only 2% illuminated on October 24, 2022. Thank you, Mohamed!

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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