The Moon Phases and the Best Times to Observe the Moon

De Maanfasen en de Beste Tijden om de Maan te Observeren

The night sky is a beautiful tableau of stars, planets and other celestial bodies. However, one object always stands out: the moon. For anyone interested in astronomy, whether you're a novice observer or an experienced astronomer, the moon offers an ever-changing spectacle. In this comprehensive guide, we dive deep into the moon phases and discover the best times to observe the moon with a telescope.


The Phases of the Moon: An Overview

Observing through a Telescope: Why and How?

Best Times to View the Moon

Recommended Telescopes for Moon Observation from Vultus

Closing Thoughts

1. The Phases of the Moon: An Overview

Every night the moon offers us a different sight, a reflection of its constant dance with both the sun and the earth. The changing shapes we observe over the course of a month are the different phases of the moon. These phases are caused by the changing relative positions of the sun, earth, and moon. Here's an in-depth look at each stage:

  • New moon: During this phase, the moon is between the Earth and the sun. The part of the moon illuminated by the sun faces away from us, so the moon is not visible from Earth. This is also the phase when solar eclipses can occur, although not with every new moon.
  • Waxing Crescent: After the new moon, a thin crescent of the moon begins to become visible in our western evening sky. This crescent grows a little thicker every evening and moves further from the sun in the sky, making it visible longer after sunset.
  • First quarter: A week after the new moon, the moon is half illuminated and high in the sky around sunset. It's as if she's dividing the sky in half, with the right half (for Northern Hemisphere observers) illuminated.
  • Waxing Gibbeus: During this phase, the illuminated portion of the moon steadily increases. The moon rises later in the evening and remains visible in the night sky longer.
  • Full moon: About two weeks after the new moon, the moon presents itself in full glory. The entire disk is illuminated, making it a perfect time to view the surface in detail, although the bright light can sometimes overexpose the deeper craters.
  • Decreasing gibbous: After the full moon, the brightness begins to gradually decrease. The moon now rises later in the evening and is still visible in the morning.
  • Last quarter: Three weeks after the new moon, we see another half-illuminated disk, but this time the left half is illuminated (for northern hemisphere observers). This phase is most visible in the early morning hours.
  • Wanking crescent: As the moon nears the end of its cycle, an increasingly thinning crescent appears in the eastern morning sky, often providing a calm and serene sight before the sun rises.

Each phase of the moon brings its own beauty and secrets, and understanding how they unfold can only deepen our appreciation for this closest celestial body.

2. Observing through a Telescope: 

Why and how? The naked eye can capture much of the moon's beauty, but a telescope reveals a whole new world of detail. Craters, valleys, mountains and seas become visible, each with their own story.

When choosing a telescope for lunar observation, it is important to consider both magnification and brightness. A visit to Vultus Telescopes can help you make the perfect choice for your needs

3. Best Times to View the Moon

It is no secret that the moon is a fascinating celestial body that has fascinated many astronomers and enthusiasts for centuries. Although the moon is beautiful in all its phases, some moments offer a more spectacular view than others, especially when looking through a telescope. Let's explore these optimal moments in more detail:

  • Waxing Crescent to First Quarter: During this phase of the moon's cycle, one can observe a dramatic display in the night sky. The terminator - the moving boundary that separates the illuminated part of the moon from the dark part - casts shadows across the moon's surface. These shadows accentuate surface features, including craters, mountains and valleys. This allows telescope users to observe the roughness and texture of the moon's surface in detail. In particular, the craters with their high rims and central peaks are beautifully illuminated, making them easy to distinguish and study.
  • Last Quarter to Waning Crescent: In many ways, this phase mirrors the benefits of the waxing phases, but on the opposite side of the moon. As the moon moves toward the end of its cycle, the terminator once again becomes a prominent feature. The shadows it casts across the moon's surface are ideal for seeing the landscape in relief. Like the waxing crescent, these shadows reveal deep craters, towering mountains and vast mari (lunar seas) in beautiful detail and contrast. For early risers who prefer to observe before sunrise, this is the perfect time to view the moon.

An important tip for those who want to look at the moon with a telescope: make sure you use a good moon filter. The moon can be surprisingly bright, especially during the full moon phase, and a filter can help dim the light and reveal more detail.

Seasons and Moon Observation:

  • Fall and Winter: During fall and winter, nights are longer and skies are often clearer, making for longer and often better moonwatching opportunities. Additionally, during winter the ecliptic, the imaginary line in the sky that follows the path of the sun, is high in the sky. This means the moon is also higher in the sky, causing less atmospheric disturbance and allowing for clearer vision.

  • Spring and Summer: In spring and summer, nights are shorter and the atmosphere may contain more moisture and dust, which can obscure visibility. Yet clear, calm summer nights still provide wonderful opportunities for moonwatching, especially around the time of the full moon.

All year round offers unique opportunities to observe the moon. Understanding both the moon phases and seasonal influences on visibility can help you maximize your moonwatching experience. So grab your telescope and head out on a clear night to observe the majestic moon in all its glory

4. Recommended Telescopes 

For Moonwatching from Vultus If you want to take your moonwatching to the next level, Vultus has a selection of telescopes specifically recommended for moonwatching. From compact travel telescopes to advanced high-resolution models, there is something for everyone. Check out our blog about the three best telescopes for beginners to see which telescope suits you best, or take the quiz on the Vultus website. The quiz will guide you to the recommended telescope for your wants and needs.

Below is a brief overview of the best telescopes for viewing the moon:

  1. The Vultus 500/80 telescope.
  2. The Vultus 300/70 telescope.
  3. The Vultus 400/70 telescope.

5. Closing thoughts

The moon is a fascinating celestial body that never ceases to amaze, no matter how many times we look at it. Whether you're an amateur astronomer or just someone who loves the night sky, the moon provides a window into the greater universe around us. With the right telescope you can lose yourself in its beauty and mysteries.