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Waxing Crescent Moon

This intermediate Moon phase comes after New Moon and lasts until half of the Moon's visible surface is illuminated at First Quarter Moon.

Illustration image

The Waxing Crescent Moon has a sickle shape.

©iStockphoto.com/suerob

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Current Waxing Crescent

Started: Apr 11, 2021 at 10:30 pm

Ends: Apr 20, 2021 at 2:58 am

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

With some variations, the Waxing Crescent Moon rises in the daytime before noon and becomes visible in the day sky. It gets more visible around sunset but typically sets before midnight.

A Waxing Moon Grows

The Waxing Crescent Moon starts as the Moon becomes visible again after the New Moon conjunction, when the Sun and Earth are on opposite sides of the Moon, making it impossible to see the Moon from Earth. During this phase, the lit-up part of the Moon increases from 0.1% to 49.9%.

Waxing means that it is growing, while crescent refers to the curved sickle shape.

Traditionally, the thinnest sliver of the Waxing Crescent Moon is considered the New Moon. This traditional definition of the New Moon is still in use in some cultures, defining the month's beginning in the Islamic calendar.

Illustration image

Earthshine illuminating the rest of the Waxing Crescent Moon's surface.

©iStockphoto.com/Igor Sokalski

Earthshine Is Reflected Sunlight

The Moon's surface reflects the Sun’s rays, and half of it 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.

Although only a small part of the Moon is directly illuminated by the Sun at the start of the Waxing Crescent Moon phase, the rest of the Moon is sometimes also faintly visible. The reason is that Earth reflects sunlight as a faint glow onto the Moon. This phenomenon is called earthshine or the Da Vinci glow, and it is most noticeable in April and May.

Spot Venus Close By

Venus, the third brightest object in the night sky, after the Sun and the Moon, can often be found next to the Crescent Moon. When it is seen in the evenings, as the evening star, it is close to the Waxing Moon. When seen in the mornings, as the morning star, it is close to the Waning Moon.

All the planets, including Earth, more or less orbit around the Sun on the same imaginary plane, known as the ecliptic, so they sometimes meet in the sky.

Illustration of the eight phases of the Moon with an arrow showing the order they appear in, seen from Earth.
Illustration of the eight phases of the Moon with an arrow showing the order they appear in, seen from Earth.

It takes around 29.5 days to move through the eight Moon phases.

©timeanddate.com

Lunar Month: A Repeating Cycle

In western culture, we divide the lunar month into four primary and four 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 to 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 the Third Quarter, the opposite half from the First Quarter is illuminated. From there, it fades into a Waning Crescent Moon. Finally, the Moon disappears entirely from view into another New Moon phase, only to reemerge and repeat this cycle.

A Waining Crescent Moon against a black night sky illuminated from the left side.

The Waxing Crescent Moon's orientation depends on the time, date, location, and Moon's position in the sky.

©iStockphoto.com/ChrisVanLennepPhoto

Looks Different Around the Globe

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 lit up no matter where on Earth you are.

The orientation of the Waxing Crescent Moon 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 Waxing Crescent Moon can be on the right side, the left, the top, or the bottom.

No Crescent Moon in Calendars

There is no symbol for a Waxing Crescent Moon in calendars as it is an intermediate Moon phase. Only the four 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

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.

Topics: Astronomy, Moon