Crescent Moon

Woodcut of Sun and Moon (Nuremberg Chronicle)

We are into the Waning Crescent phase of the Moon which occurs between the last quarter and new Moon phases. In the Northern Hemisphere, we see the Moon’s left side lit and the right side in darkness. The lit area slowly shrinks each day, covering less and less of the Moon’s surface until it looks like a very thin crescent on the left side.

About 30% is lit this weekend with what we call “moonlight.” But there is no moonlight – only sunlight reflected off the Moon’s surface.

The whole Moon will be in darkness at the new Moon phase and another lunar cycle will begin.

Waning Crescent Moons rise in the east between midnight and sunrise and are highest in the morning. It sets (yes, just like the Sun) rather invisibly between noon and sunset.

Even this phase of the Moon has its lore, though the Full and New Moons tend to get more attention. One of the many lunar superstitions is that the first time you see a crescent moon for the month, take all your spare coins out of your pocket, and put them in a different pocket in order to ensure good luck for the next month. Clearly, this belief came from a time when people carried coins in their pockets instead of credit cards and a phone.

Some other Crescent Moon connections:

  • A crescent shape is a symbol for this lunar phase and it is sometimes called the “sickle moon.
  • In Hinduism, Lord Shiva is often shown wearing a crescent moon on his head symbolizing that he is timeless and the master of time.
  • The crescent is also used as the astrological symbol for the Moon.
  • It is the alchemical symbol for silver.
  • It was the emblem in mythology of Diana (Artemis) and represented virginity.
  • In Christianity, it is associated with the Virgin Mary.
  • Because it was used as a roof finial in Ottoman-era mosques, it has also become associated with Islam.

A Waxing Crescent Moon to Start a Lunar Month

Full Moons get the most attention when it comes to lunar phases. But the New Moon (or Dark Moon) is also important in some cultures, and the waxing and waning phases and the two Crescent Moons also have beliefs attached to them.

In Cornwall, if a boy was born during a waning Moon, they said that the next birth would be a girl and both would be blessed.

In the lore of the Moon, it was said that to see the crescent Moon over the right shoulder was considered lucky, but seeing it over the left shoulder was unlucky. Since tonight’s Moon phase is a Waxing Crescent, be sure to look over your right shoulder tonight.

A Waxing Crescent is the first phase after the New Moon. This is actually an optimal time to see the features of the moon’s surface. During this phase, the Moon can be seen in the western sky after the Sun goes below the horizon. Right now, the Moon is close to the sun in the sky and mostly dark except for the right edge which becomes brighter as the days pass. The next phase is the First Quarter when it is  50% illuminated.

moon phases

Muslims around the globe are observing the holy month of Ramadan, which begins for most on either around  April 12 or 13 in 2021 when it was a Waxing Crescent Moon phase. That is the phase that looks like a  )  while the Waning Crescent looks like a  .

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of their holy book, the Quran, to Muhammad according to Islamic belief.

Since the Islamic calendar adheres to the lunar calendar of 12 months rather than the Gregorian calendar, a solar calendar used in the Western part of the globe, every month starts as the new crescent moon emerges. It continues for 29 or 30 days. Each year, this makes Ramadan start 10 to 12 days earlier. Their 12-month lunar year has a total of 354 or 355 days or is 11 days shorter than the seasonal year on which the Gregorian calendar is based.

Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and a Crescent Moon

If you were up early this morning you would have seen a lineup in the morning sky of Venus, Saturn and Jupiter on a line with the morning crescent moon. The lineup will be around for the next few mornings, so if there is a clear sky and you are up more than an hour before sunrise, it will be easy to spot.

Look east to the sunrise and the Moon will slide its way up past the three planets.

The planetary lineup – via

This morning the waning crescent moon was right next to Jupiter. (This is best viewed from North America.)

Saturn and Venus are east of Jupiter and the line they seem to all be on is the ecliptic, or Earth-sun plane. This is the plane on which the other planets in our solar system and the moon all orbit, so we view them as being on this line.

Moon Moves

a waning “C” crescent and a waxing “D” crescent

I was out last night with a friend who commented that there was a clear “crescent Moon.” People commonly use that term when a sliver of Moon is showing, but there are two versions of the crescent sliver.

The Moon is always waxing (growing in the lit area we see) and waning, and moving closer and farther away from us. It is surprising how many people have never really noticed that the Moon looks like a looks like a “C” crescent, and later looks like a “D” in its waxing phase.

moon phases
The phases of the Moon as viewed looking southward from the Northern Hemisphere. Each phase would be rotated 180° if seen looking northward from the Southern Hemisphere. The upper part of the diagram is not to scale, as the Moon is much farther from Earth than shown here.

In Hinduism, every part of the cosmos is seen as an action of a god and time is the endless repetition of the same long cycle. In Hindu mythology, Soma represents the god of the Moon.

Soma rides a sky chariot drawn by white horses. Soma was also the name of the elixir of immortality that only the gods can drink. The elixir is stored on the Moon. When the gods drink soma, they draw away from the Moon and it becomes smaller. (I wrote about soma earlier in another context.)

Most people know that the Moon changes its distance from Earth continually because the orbit of the moon is not a perfect circle. It is more like an ellipse, so it will have a point of perigee (closest point to Earth) and apogee (farthest point) each month. Today, May 6, it is at apogee and it is 251,318 miles or 404,457 km away from us.

Back on April 20 perigee, it was  229,108 miles or 368,714 km away. In cosmic terms, a difference of 22,210 miles or 35,743 km is not that much and only astronomers take note of the diference. But occasionally the media will decide to write a story about the “biggest Full Moon of the year” or something similar.

There is a nice animation at that shows the movement of the Moon in your area and illustrates nicely why we see a Full Moon and how it appears when waxing and waning.  You can set it to any date, so I know that on my next October birthday the Moon will be waxing gibbous and approaching full. Unfortunately, it doesn’t allow you to go back before 2000 or I would take a look at what the Moon was up to when I was born.