Moon Phases Loop

  • Released Friday, May 1, 2015
  • Updated Friday, August 14, 2020 at 2:35PM
  • ID: 4310

This short looping animation shows a complete cycle of lunar phases. The view is geocentric, lunar north up. The frames are at intervals of 3 hours, with a total length of 236 frames representing a synodic month of 29.5 days. To find the frame number corresponding to a particular age in days, use the formula

frame number = ( days × 8 ) + 1

The depiction of phases here is idealized: It ignores both libration and subsolar latitude. In effect, it assumes that the Moon's orbit is perfectly circular and that both its orbit and its equator are in the plane of the ecliptic. In reality, the Moon's orbit is an ellipse inclined 5.1° to the ecliptic, and its axis is tilted another 1.5° from its orbit. These conditions combine to make the Moon's true cycle of phases more complex than what is shown here. Check out an accurate visualization of the current lunar phase and libration.

The following images are frames from the animation representing particular phases. Each caption gives both the name of the phase and its age, or time since New Moon. Lunar north up corresponds to the view from northern latitudes; for southern hemisphere observers, the images should be rotated 180 degrees.


Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio


This visualization is related to the following missions:


This visualization can be found in the following series:

Datasets used in this visualization

LRO DEM (A.K.A. Digital Elevation Map) (Collected with the LOLA sensor)
LRO WAC 643nm High Sun Global Mosaic (Collected with the LROC sensor)

Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details nor the data sets themselves on our site.

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