The Moon Phases Explained

Dive into the captivating world of moon phases. Understand how they look different from the Southern Hemisphere, despite being the same phase, and uncover the secrets behind this celestial phenomenon.

Ste Wright | 3 min read

The moon, Earth's closest celestial neighbour, has captivated human imagination for millennia. Its changing phases have guided ancient calendars, inspired countless myths, and continue to fascinate us today. In this article, we will explore the moon's various phases and delve into a unique aspect of lunar observation: how the same moon phase can appear different when viewed from the Southern Hemisphere.

Understanding Moon Phases

The moon phases are a result of the moon's orbit around the Earth and the Earth's orbit around the sun. This celestial dance leads to the moon showing us different portions of its illuminated side, which we perceive as phases. These phases include:

New Moon 🌑

The moon is between the Earth and the sun, with its illuminated side facing away from us.

Waxing Crescent 🌒

A sliver of the moon becomes visible after the new moon.

First Quarter 🌓

Half of the moon is illuminated and visible.

Waxing Gibbous 🌔

More than half of the moon is visible, leading up to the full moon.

Full Moon 🌕

The entire face of the moon is illuminated.

Waning Gibbous 🌖

The illuminated part of the moon starts to decrease after the full moon.

Third Quarter 🌗

Again, half of the moon is visible, but the opposite side to the first quarter.

Waning Crescent 🌘

The moon returns to a sliver, completing the cycle.

The Moon's Phases from the Southern Hemisphere

While the phases themselves are the same globally, their appearance differs remarkably when viewed from the Southern Hemisphere. This difference is due to the inverted perspective caused by the Earth's curvature. For instance:

  • The Crescent Moon: In the Northern Hemisphere, the crescent moon's tips point right when waxing and left when waning. In the Southern Hemisphere, this is reversed.
  • The First and Third Quarters: The half-moon appears as if it's lying on its back in the Southern Hemisphere, compared to its upright appearance in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Science Behind the Perspective Shift

The orientation change is not because the moon phases occur differently but because of our position on Earth. As observers move from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere, their perspective shifts. This shift is similar to how text appears upside down when viewed from the opposite side of a transparent sheet.


Understanding moon phases provides a window into basic astronomical concepts and offers a fascinating glimpse into how our perspective on Earth affects what we see in the sky. Whether you're gazing at the moon from the Northern or Southern Hemisphere, its phases remind us of our place in the vast universe.

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