8th grade Science Class
Earth’s Moon, Luna, is without a doubt one of the most fascinating natural phenomenon. The continuous metamorphosis from new moon to full moon and from waning to waxing crescent can only be explain by the positioning of the moon and its angle in relation to earth’s. Other lunar events such as solar eclipses and lunar eclipses have been mysteries for ages.
Throughout time man has made odd excuses to explain why the moon changes its shape. In Inuit legend, Anningan the moon god fasts while the moon is waning then on a new moon he comes down to hunt. He then returns to the sky then the moon waxes as he eats his game till he is “full”. Then the process repeats itself. The name of the cycle when the moons evident shape changes is identified as moon phases. The separate “faces” of the moon are called, in this order, New Moon, New Crescent, First Quarter, New Gibbous, Full Moon, Old Gibbous, Last Quarter, and Old Crescent. At the present time we know that moon phases are caused by the angle of the moon in orbit compared to the sun. The New Moon occurs when the moon’s orbit crosses between the earth and the sun. Consequently the sun’s light is unable to reflect off the moon producing the illusion that the moon has disappeared. A New Crescent appears after the New Moon when the moon is in a 45 degree angle, causing its thin crescent shape. At first quarter, or half moon, the moon is at a 90 degree angle to the sunlight. For that reason half of the moon is facing away from the sun causing it to look as if it vanished. The gibbous moon is in a 135 degree angle to the sun therefore most of the moon is illuminated by the sun. At mid cycle the full moon appears. At this stage the moon is directly facing the sun. th incoming sunlight mirrors off of the moon causing the appearance of a “full” circle. Then the cycle seems to rewind it self in a mirror image.