Moon Phases Loop

  • Released Friday, May 1, 2015

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

Release date

This page was originally published on Friday, May 1, 2015.
This page was last updated on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 at 12:06 AM EST.


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