Why do we sometimes see the Moon during the day?

Why do we sometimes see the Moon during the day?

We have probably all spotted the Moon quite clearly during the day even though we associate it with the night time sky.

So why is it that we can sometimes see the Moon during daylight hours?

Going round and round

Before answering the question it would help to take a look at where the Sun, Moon and Earth are in our Solar System and how they move around each other.

The Sun sits in the middle of our Solar System and the planets, like Earth, move around it. We call this orbiting and it takes the Earth approximately one year (365.25 days) to orbit the Sun.

The Moon moves around the Earth, taking about a month (27.32 days) to make a full orbit.

As well as orbiting other celestial bodies, the Earth and the Moon also spin or rotate on their own axes. It takes the Earth 24 hours to make a full rotation which means that, as it spins, part of the Earth will be pointed towards the Sun (day time) and part of it will be facing away from the Sun (night time). Of course, while the Earth is spinning on its own axis, the Moon is too.

All about the sunlight

The Moon doesn’t create its own light, like the Sun does, we only see the Moon because it is being lit by the Sun and this light is reflected down to Earth.

So, from our viewing point on Earth, we only see the Moon if the part that is being lit by the Sun is visible.

So, while the Earth is spinning and the Moon is orbiting, the lit up part of the Moon in seen in different parts of the sky and at different times of the month.

This means that we will sometimes see the lit up part of the Moon during the night but also sometimes see it during the day.

As it takes about a month for the Moon to make a complete orbit, we actually see the Moon in day time for about half the month.

Why do we sometimes see the Moon during the day?

Phases of the Moon

Of course, it is not just how much we see the Moon during the day or night but also how much of the Moon we see.

As it orbits the Earth the part of the Moon we see is lit up in differing amounts. This changes what we see, sometimes seeing only a small sliver of the Moon, sometimes seeing the Moon as a half circle and sometimes seeing it as a full circle.

These views are called the phases of the Moon.

The first phase of the Moon is called the new Moon and that is when it is directly between the Sun and the Earth and appears almost completely dark from our viewpoint.

As it moves through its orbit we start to see slivers of reflected light which we call a crescent moon. Eventually the Moon reaches a point in its orbit where it appears as a full, bright Moon.

It continues orbiting until eventually, we are back to the New Moon again, about a month after the last one.

The dark side of the Moon

We always see the same side of the moon because it rotates exactly once on its axis with every complete orbit of the Earth. So as it orbits, the same side of the Moon is always facing towards Earth.

In 1959 the soviet spacecraft, Luna 3, shared images of the dark side of the moon for the first time.


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