I am both a science nerd and a moon gardener and here is a little something for you to know it will certainly impress your family and friends!

moon phases science

Moon Phases

Let’s begin with the phases of the Moon. These are caused by the relationship between the Sun, the Earth and the Moon. The Moon has no light of its own. It merely reflects the light of the Sun.

Imagine you are a little smiling face on the Earth. Then look towards the Sun. When the Moon is between you and the Sun, it is invisible and is called a New Moon. As the Moon moves around this wonderful planet we call Earth, the Sun will light up part of its surface (from our point of view). Imagine sunlight rays coming from the Sun and hitting the Moon. As the Moon moves around Earth, more and more of the Moon is lit up by the Sun until ultimately, we see a Full Moon. The reverse then happens as the Moon moves back towards the New Moon again.
At the New Moon, the side facing the Sun is brilliantly lit up; but we cannot see it. And it is interesting that in ancient times the time of the New Moon was actually the first sighting of the waxing crescent. Nowadays modern scientific minded astronomers decided that the New Moon should be known as the time that the Moon is invisible. I go along with everyone else, and call it the New Moon, but it does mean that in the old texts when the ancients said plant at the New Moon, they actually meant the time that you can see the crescent Moon!


I can hear you ask about eclipses. As we look at the Moon in its travels through the sky most of the time the Moon passes just beneath, or just over the top of the Sun. But every now and then the Moon will appear to pass over part, or all, of the Sun. This is a Solar Eclipse.

When it is a Full Moon, and we here on planet Earth get exactly in between the Moon and the Sun, our shadow passes over part, or over all, of the Moon. This is a Lunar Eclipse.

Visual Moon

Imagine what you would see at dawn or sunset of a Full Moon. Since the Sun and the Moon oppose each other; at dawn you would see the Sun rise in the east, and at the same time the Full Moon is setting in the west. Similarly, in the evening you would see the Sun set in the west and the Moon rise in the east. That was asked on a recent radio trivial pursuit game, and the person phoning in won. Who said science wasn’t useful!

How Long is a Month?

Do you think this is an easy question? Well no, it’s a hard one. Without paying any attention to the Sun, the Moon takes 27.3 days to go around us in respect to the stars and is called the sidereal month. But of course, we are also moving around the Sun. Try and use your imagination and in your mind’s eye see the Moon starting off is journey in front of the Sun at a New Moon and continuing all the way around. But because as we are moving around the Sun, it will take the Moon a little longer to catch up to the Suns position. This little difference means the Moon takes 29.18 days to return the same position in respect to the Sun. And this is called the synodic month. That’s why it is so hard to figure out exactly how long a month is. Most people try to keep it simple and say “about” 28 days. I bet you wonder why this is important. But you will meet the different terms in any research you do on Moon Gardening, and you may win at a trivial pursuit game!

Moon Signs and Sun Signs

As the Moon moves around us, it also moves in front of the zodiac signs. The zodiac is the circle of stars that the Sun, Moon and the planets appear to move along, and is known as the ecliptic.

The Moon goes around us once a month, approximately 28 days, and in that time if you looked at the background behind the Moon, you would see different zodiac signs. So, in a month the moon moves through all the zodiac signs and spends about 2 and-a-bit days in each. These are the Moon Signs.

Sun Signs, also known as Star Signs, are the zodiac sign we see behind the Sun as we move around it. We know it takes a year for us to move around the Sun. If you could see the stars in the background behind the Sun, you would see it travel through the zodiac.

Depending on your date of birth, this changing background to the Sun, is your Sun or Star signs.

Waning Moon or Waxing Moon ? – Here’s a Tip !

Here is a handy tip to find out if the Moon is waning or waxing. But you do need to be able to see the Moon. Now look at the Moon and imagine that you want to grab hold with one hand. Put up each hand and decide which hand will curve and hold the most rounded side of the Moon perfectly. Here in the southern hemisphere, if it’s your left hand, then it’s a waxing and increasing in visible size. If it’s your right hand, then the Moon is waning and decreasing in visible size. The opposite applies in the northern hemisphere. If the Moon appears as a bowl then you will not be able to tell if it’s waxing or waning, but ancient stories say that it means the Moon is full of water and it will soon rain! Don’t laugh; it’s true. They did say that; and it does mean rain… 90% of the time.

Now here’s how to find out where north, south, east and west are at night.

First have a look to see which side of the Moon is lit up. If its evening time and it’s lit up on the left hand side then the Sun, which is the source of the light shining on the Moon, must be on that side. Since the Sun always sets in the west you know where west is. As we are in the southern hemisphere, the Moon will be more in northern part of the sky. So you know where north is, and by putting it all together you can point out all the directions of the compass. Impress the kids!

Ever seen the whole Moon but only a part of it is glowing brightly? This is known as earthshine and is caused during the crescent moon when the sunlight reflects off the Earth and shines on the Moon, and then shines back down to Earth where you can see it.

So you will see the brilliant crescent and also the darker circle of the Moon showing a beautiful glow. The ancients saw it as the new moon resting in the arms of the old moon.

Well that’s enough science for now. Have a wonderful season full of the abundance of life.