Home   Sun & Moon   Moon   Waxing Gibbous

Waxing Gibbous Moon

This intermediate Moon phase starts after the First Quarter Moon and lasts until the Full Moon.

A Waxing Gibbous Moon against a black sky.

During the Waxing Gibbous phase, the Moon grows from Half to Full Moon.

©iStockphoto.com/suerob

Next Waxing Gibbous Moon

Starts: May 19, 2021 at 3:12 pm

Ends: May 26, 2021 at 7:13 am

Times for the Waxing Gibbous Moon vary by time zone. Times and dates are based on the local time in Washington DC. Change location

With some exceptions, the Waxing Gibbous Moon rises after noon. It is usually visible in the evening and sets after midnight.

A Waxing Moon Grows

The Waxing Gibbous phase is when the lit-up part of the Moon grows from 50.1% to 99.9%. It starts just after the First Quarter Moon and lasts until the Full Moon.

Waxing means that it is getting bigger, while gibbous refers to the oval-to-round shape.

As the illuminated part of the Waxing Gibbous Moon grows to 98-99%, it can be challenging to differentiate it from a Full Moon.

Sun Lights Up the Moon

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.

The Appearance of the Golden Handle

The dividing line between the light and dark areas on any planet or moon is called the terminator.

As the terminator moves across the face of our Moon, a delicate visual effect happens about two days after First Quarter. The Sun lights up the Montes Jura peaks (a mountain range) while, below, Sinus Iridum (Bay of Rainbows) is still in darkness. The result is the appearance of a curved “handle” on the terminator, known as the Golden Handle or Jewelled Scimitar.

Edited image of the Waxing Gibbous Moon with a ringed area on the terminator titled "The Golden Handle".
Edited image of the Waxing Gibbous Moon with a ringed area on the terminator titled "The Golden Handle".

The Golden Handle appears on the terminator of the Waxing Gibbous Moon. You'll need a pair of binoculars, or the zoom function on your camera.

©iStockphoto.com/BrianEKushner & ©timeanddate.com

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 Gibbous 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.

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 Moon 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. The first visible Moon phase is the thin sliver of a Waxing Crescent Moon. Around a week later, half of the Moon’s surface is illuminated 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.

No Gibbous Moon in Calendars

There is no symbol for the Waxing Gibbous 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: Moon, Astronomy