Hey, Sky Fans!
How things today? Here we are just about at the start of May, so here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for, the Moon’s primary phases for May 2020!
- May 7: Full Moon
- May 14: Last Quarter
- May 22: New Moon
- May 30: First Quarter (That’s in the early AM UTC. If you’re in the Americas, you’ll probably see first quarter on May 29)
Another month, and another month when there’s kind of an interesting pattern in the Moon’s phases. There’s always something interesting and amazing, isn’t there?
Depending on when you’re reading this, and I’m writing it on April 30, you could be revving yourself up to see April’s second first quarter Moon! Huzzah, etc! Like we talked about last month, the Moon takes about 29 days to make it from one phase all the way around Earth and back to the same phase again. That’s called a lunation. As it turns out, there’s about 13 lunations every Earth year; 12 months on our Gregorian calendar.
Since a lunation is shorter than all but one of our dumb ol’ calendar months, we wind up with repeated phases at the beginning and the end of the month, though we really only seem to talk about it when it’s a full Moon, or I suppose when you come here to look at the art department’s snazzy drawings. That’s amore!
Back to today’s first-quarter Moon. Since we crammed a second of those into the end of April, the next primary phase is May’s full, and that doesn’t happen until… what, the seventh? Seven days in a week…. that’s a full week into the Month. That’s about as late as these things can be. April’s late-falling first quarter also shuffles Full to the top of the primary phase pile. Maybe, maybe, for once, the full Moon will get some attention.
Phases are places, right? First quarter is the spot where the Moon is off to Earth’s left as we look toward the Sun from the northern hemisphere. It’s lagging after us as we both make our way around the Sun.
So, what has to happen in order for the Moon to get from first to last quarter? Try to imagine this. From here, it’ll spend the first couple weeks of May passing behind Earth relative to the Sun. In a week, it’ll be directly behind, and the Sun-Earth-Moon line will be straight. We call that place “full.”
From there, it keeps going around until about two weeks from now, a week after full, it gets to last (or third) quarter, where it’s off to our right. That spot is actually ahead of Earth as we make our way around the block together.
There’s a lot going on with how things move in space, and orbital mechanics is no joke. So, I’m not going to talk about any of the deets and digits on how that all happens. Instead of all that, just try to imagine this if you can. Picture the Moon taking the next couple of weeks doing as the chicken, and getting to the other side*. As it goes, it’s phases spend half their time growing, and the other half waning away. Can you imagine the Moon actually making this trip? It’s amazing, no?
Thanks for stopping by, everyone. Be safe, and clear skies!
*Did you really think I’d leave you hanging with no dumb joke? I’m sure I’m not the first person ever… quick to the Internet! Yep… I’m not the first person to use that joke. According to this page, Jay Leno did, too.