The Third Quarter Moon is a Half Moon
The Third Quarter Moon is when the opposite half of the Moon is illuminated compared to the First Quarter. Which half you see lit up depends on where you are on Earth.
Next Third Quarter Moon
Mar 3, 2024 at 10:23 am
Previous Third Quarter Moon
Feb 2, 2024 at 6:18 pm
Times for the Third Quarter Moon vary by time zone. Times and dates are based on the local time in Washington DC. Change location
Half the Moon Is Lit Up
The Third or Last Quarter Moon is also called a Half Moon because the Sun's rays illuminate exactly 50% of the Moon's surface.
Half of the Moon’s surface is always illuminated by direct sunlight, except during lunar eclipses when Earth casts its shadow on the Moon. Just how much of that light we can see from Earth varies every day, and we call this a Moon phase.
Half Moon Visible During the Day
The Moon is the only astronomical object you can easily see in the day blue sky apart from the Sun. The Third Quarter Moon rises in the middle of the night and sets in the middle of the day. This is the opposite of a First Quarter Moon, which rises around midday and sets around midnight.
Last Primary Moon Phase
In western culture, we divide the lunar month into four primary and four intermediate Moon phases.
Third Quarter Moon is the last primary phase when the Moon has reached the third, or last, quarter of its orbit around Earth, hence the name.
A Primary Phase Is an Exact Time
The primary Moon phases occur at a specific moment in time, and the intermediate Moon phases are the time between the primary phases. These are the Waxing Crescent Moon, the Waxing Gibbous Moon, the Waning Gibbous Moon, and the Waning Crescent Moon.
Looks Different Around the Globe
Even though the Moon phases are the same all over the world, the Moon can look different in the sky. The same percentage and area of the Moon are lit up, but the Moon is rotated in different ways depending on the time, the date, your location, and the Moon's position in the sky. Therefore, the illuminated part can appear on the left, the right, the top, or the bottom.
Opposite Sides in Opposite Hemispheres
At the Third Quarter in the Northern Hemisphere, the left half of the Moon is lit up, while the right half is illuminated in the Southern Hemisphere. Near the equator, the lower part is bright after moonrise, and the upper part is bright before moonset.
Third Quarter Moon in Calendars
The symbol for Third Quarter Moon in modern calendars is a circle split down the middle with the left side white and the right side black.
The other primary Moon phase symbols in calendars:
= New Moon = First Quarter = Full Moon
The Moon illustration on our Moon phase pages indicates more accurately, although not perfectly, which part of the Moon is lit up.
Affects the Tides
The ocean tides on Earth are mostly generated by the Moon’s gravitational pull. At the First and Third Quarter, the Moon and Sun pull in different directions, producing the smallest difference between high and low tide, known as neaps or neap tide.
The largest tidal range is around Full Moon and New Moon. During these Moon phases, the Moon and the Sun's gravitational forces combine to pull the ocean’s water in the same direction. These tides are known as spring tides or king tides.