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CINDY DAY: Daytime moonlight

I took this photo at about 4:30 Sunday afternoon in Cole Harbour N.S. The waxing gibbous moon will be full on Friday at which time it will rise as the sun sets and be up in the sky all night.
I took this photo at about 4:30 Sunday afternoon in Cole Harbour N.S. The waxing gibbous moon will be full on Friday at which time it will rise as the sun sets and be up in the sky all night. - Cindy Day

I’m always reminding people to look up.  On Sunday afternoon, Lance McKay was looking up when he spotted something he thought was quite unusual: the moon. 

It was around 3:30 p.m. and the moon was up and about 75-per-cent full.  On Sunday the moon came up at 2:50 p.m. in the afternoon and set at 2:52 a.m. Monday morning.  

Seeing the moon high in the sky during the day is not uncommon.   

There are a few reasons why the moon can be seen during the daytime.  The moon’s proximity to our planet and surface composition is part of it but the main reason is the lunar cycle – the nature of the moon’s orbit around Earth. 

Like most moons, ours is in “synchronous rotation” with our planet, which means one side is constantly facing towards the Earth.  The moon makes a complete orbit around Earth every 27.3 days.  During that time, the moon goes through eight phases.  

The sun always illuminates only half of the moon, which we see from different angles as it rotates around the Earth.  At the beginning of the cycle, we can’t see the moon because none of its illuminated side is pointed towards Earth.  This is known as a “New Moon.”  Over the course of the next 29.5 days, the moon will go through the phases of Waxing Crescent, First Quarter and Waxing Gibbous before appearing as a Full Moon.  Then it completes the cycle by going through the phases of Waning Gibbous, Third Quarter and Waning Crescent before returning to a New Moon.  Through it all, only a portion of the illuminated half is visible to Earth, ranging from zero per cent at a New Moon to 100 per cent during a Full Moon. 

All this to say the moon is up in the daytime as often as it is at night. It’s only the full moon that rises in the east as the sun is setting in the west and reigns in the sky all night long. In other words, the moon is up all night long only one night each month! 

Thanks for asking Lance.  If you’re curious about something, drop me a line… I’ll do my best to answer it! Weathermail@weatherbyday.ca 

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