Moon Phases

What is a waning gibbous moon?

Ilija Desic caught a waning gibbous moon with seagulls in Belgrade, Serbia.

Between full and last quarter moon – late at night or in the early morning – you might catch the moon in its waning gibbous phase. It’ll appear less than full but more than half-lighted. A full moon rises just at sunset. A waning gibbous moon rises later at night, somewhere between your local sundown and midnight.

A waning gibbous moon can surprise you if you happen to be out late in the evening and you catch it rising eerily, some hours after sunset, glowing red like a misshapen full moon when it’s near the horizon.

Wonderful photo of a waning gibbous moonrise over Toronto, via our friend Lunar 101-Moon Book.

A waning gibbous moon also initiates a rash of questions about seeing the moon during the day.

If it rises late at night, you know the waning gibbous moon must set after sunrise.

Yes, the moon is up in the daylight time for half of every month. We just don’t see it as often there because a daylight moon is so pale, and the sun is so bright; if the moon is close to the sun, bright sunlight will drown it from view. Watch for the daylight moon in the west in the days following full moon. You’ll see it in early morning, floating like a pale ghost against the blue sky.

Jenney Disimon caught this daytime moon – a waning gibbous moon, 94.7% illuminated – from Sabah, North Borneo.
Bulging white moon in blue sky over orange-red flowers.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Peter Lowenstein caught the early morning waning gibbous moon from Mutare, Zimbabwe, on May 11, 2020. He said: “Three quarters of an hour after sunrise the daytime waning gibbous moon was photographed descending towards the top of a flowering African tulip (Spathodia campanulta) tree on Murambi Heights.”

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

Bottom line: See the waning gibbous moon between the full and last quarter phases. It’s best viewed from late night through early morning.

EarthSky’s guide to the October bright planets

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January 1, 2021
Moon Phases

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