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Waning Crescent Moon

This intermediate Moon phase is the last phase of the lunar month. It starts just after the Third Quarter Moon and lasts until the following New Moon.

Waning Crescent Moon against a black night sky

Waning Crescent Moon

The Waning Crescent Moon has a shape similar to a banana or a boat.

©iStockphoto.com/photosmalta

49.9% to 0.1% Illuminated

During the Waning Crescent Moon phase, the illuminated part of the Moon decreases from the lit up semicircle at Third Quarter until it disappears from view entirely at New Moon.

Waning means that it is getting smaller while crescent refers to the curved shape similar to a banana or a boat.

With some variations, the Waning Crescent Moon rises after midnight and is still up and visible in the morning and day sky before it sets in the afternoon.

Sun Lights Up the Moon

The Moon does not radiate its own light, but the Moon's surface reflects the Sun’s rays. Half of the Moon’s surface is always illuminated by sunlight. Just how much of that light we can see from Earth varies every day, and we refer to this as a Moon phase.

Repeating Cycle

In Western culture, we divide the lunar month into 4 primary and 4 intermediate Moon phases.

The Moon phases start with the invisible New Moon, while the first visible phase is the thin sliver of a Waxing Crescent Moon. Around a week later, half of the Moon’s surface is illuminated while the other half is in darkness at First Quarter Moon.

The illuminated part continues to grow into a Waxing Gibbous Moon, until 14–15 days into the cycle, we see the entire face of the Moon lit up at Full Moon.

The illuminated part then gradually shrinks into a Waning Gibbous Moon, and when it reaches Third Quarter, the opposite half from the First Quarter is illuminated. From there, it fades into the Waning Crescent Moon before it finally disappears from view again, only to reemerge and repeat this cycle over and over.

Earthshine of a crescent moon
Earthshine at Waning Crescent Moon.
A Waning Crescent Moon with earthshine dimly illuminating the rest of the Moon's surface.
©iStockphoto.com/TokioMarineLife

Earthshine

Although only a small part of the Moon is directly illuminated by the Sun at the end of the Waning Crescent Moon phase, the rest of the Moon is sometimes also faintly visible. This is because Earth also reflects sunlight as a dull glow onto the Moon, a phenomenon called earthshine.

Same Phase Looks Different

The Moon phases are the same all over the world, both in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The same percentage of the Moon will be illuminated no matter where on Earth you are.

However, whether the Waning Crescent Moon looks like a banana, a boat, or even an umbrella, depends on the time, the date, your location and the Moon's position in the sky. Exactly which part of the Moon is lit up–the top, bottom, or the side–also depends on how high the Moon is in the sky.

The line–or curve–dividing the illuminated and dark parts of the Moon is called the terminator. The terminator of a Waning Crescent Moon can appear on the right side, the left, the top or the bottom.

No Crescent Moon in Calendars

There is no common symbol for a Waning Crescent Moon in calendars as it is an intermediate Moon phase. Only the 4 primary phases are shown in calendars with the following symbols:
symbol of a new moon = New Moon symbol of a First Quarter = First Quarter symbol of a Full Moon = Full Moon symbol of a Third quarter Moon = Third Quarter

These symbols reflect the Moon's appearance in the Northern Hemisphere, which can be confusing for people in the Southern Hemisphere, where the opposite side may be illuminated.

The Moon illustration on our Moon phase pages changes as time passes, and indicates more accurately, although not perfectly, which part of the Moon is illuminated in more than 5000 locations worldwide.

Topics: Moon, Astronomy, Calendar

Next Waning Crescent

Starts: Jul 16, 2017 at 3:25 pm

Ends: Jul 23, 2017 at 5:45 am

Times for Waning Crescent can vary by time zone. Dates are based on the local time in Washington DC. Change location

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The Moon Phases

  1. The Lunar Month
  2. New Moon
  3. Waxing Crescent Moon
  4. First Quarter Moon
  5. Waxing Gibbous Moon
  6. Full Moon
  7. Waning Gibbous Moon
  8. Third Quarter Moon
  9. Waning Crescent Moon

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The Moon

  1. What Is a Supermoon?
  2. The Moon Phases
  3. The Moon's Effect on Tides
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  5. How Can Full Moon Be in the Daytime?
  6. Is a Blue Moon Blue?
  7. The Moon's Orbit
  8. The Far Side of the Moon
  9. What Is a Black Moon?
  10. What Are Moonbows?
  11. Full Moon Names
  12. Taking pictures of the Moon

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