When is a Half a Quarter
There is an interesting line in Michael Martin Murphy's song " Carolina In The Pines " that relates to the phases of the Moon. Last night when I looked at the Moon in our clear North Carolina night sky I could see half of the moon and the view got me thinking about the way we describe the phases of the Moon.
When we cannot see the Moon because it is fully in shadow we call it a New Moon. Shouldn't it be called a Null Moon or a No Moon since we cannot see it?
As the Moon begins to emerge from the Earth's shadow and light begins to reflect from a portion of the side facing us, we call that a Waxing Crescent Moon. The word Waxing is used to indicated the lighted portion is growing larger each night.
Now comes the confusing part. When half of the side of the Moon facing us becomes lit we call it the First Quarter Moon. It is called the First Quarter because the Moon is one-quarter of the way through its cycle. So when we see half of the Moon we are seeing a Quarter Moon. This happens again after the Moon is Full and wanes away until only half is left lit. That phase is called the Third Quarter. Again, we see half when we see a Quarter.
Another term that I wonder about concerning the Moon is gibbous. When the lit face of the Moon is between the First Quarter and Full or Full and the Third Quarter it is either a Waxing or Waning Gibbous moon. Where did the word Gibbous come from? I will stop now and look it up so I can tell you.
I'm back and now I can tell you that the English word gibbous comes to us from the Latin word gibbus meaning hump. How exactly that came to describe the view of the Moon between Full and Quarter Phases I have not learned yet. Perhaps I will be inspired to tonight if I catch a glimpse of the Waxing Gibbous Moon.
Image Credit » https://pixabay.com/en/moon-lunar-night-close-half-588471/ by stuzinty