Waxing crescent moon: All you need to know

A waxing crescent moon is an intermediate or secondary phase of the lunar cycle that starts right after the new moon and lasts until it becomes a first quarter moon.

During a waxing crescent moon, the illuminated area of the moon increases from 0.1% to 49.9%. Here, the illuminated area means the lighted portion of the moon.

A waxing crescent moon is best seen in the western sky after sunset
A waxing crescent moon is best seen in the western sky after sunset. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Meaning of the waxing crescent moon

A waxing crescent moon consists of two terms: waxing and crescent.

Here, “waxing” means increasing or growing. After a new moon, the illuminated area of the moon increases day after day; that’s why it’s called a waxing moon.

Another term, “crescent,” means a curved sickle shape. The moon looks like a curved sickle shape between a new moon and a first quarter moon; that’s why it’s called a crescent moon.

So a waxing crescent moon signifies the shape of the moon.

Rise and set time of a waxing crescent moon

A waxing crescent moon rises in the morning (between sunrise and noon) in the east, reaches its highest point (overhead point) in the sky in the afternoon, and sets in the evening (between sunset and midnight) in the west.

Please remember, a waxing crescent moon does not rise and set at the same time every day. On consecutive days, a waxing crescent moon rises and sets about 50 minutes later.

A waxing crescent moon is best seen in the western sky after sunset

It’s very hard to see a waxing crescent moon in the daytime. Due to its thin sickle shape, a waxing crescent moon disappears in the sun’s glare in the daytime.

A waxing crescent moon is best seen around two or three days after the new moon in the western sky after sunset.

A new moon immediately becomes a waxing crescent moon

A new moon immediately becomes a waxing crescent moon because a new moon has no duration.

However, right after the moment of the new moon, a waxing crescent moon is so thin that it can’t be seen with the unaided eye.

You have to wait a day or two after the new moon to see a waxing crescent moon with your unaided eye because the illuminated area of a waxing crescent moon increases as the day progresses.

Duration of a waxing crescent moon

The moon takes approximately 29.5 days to complete a lunar cycle. A lunar cycle has eight phases in total: the new moon, waxing crescent moon, first quarter moon, waxing gibbous moon, full moon, waning gibbous moon, third quarter moon, and waning crescent moon.

The new moon, first quarter moon, full moon, and third quarter moon have no duration as these are the primary or major phases of the moon.

So the duration of the four secondary phases (waxing crescent, waxing gibbous, waning gibbous, and waning crescent) is 29.5 days in total.

So a waxing crescent moon lasts around 29.5/4 = 7.3 days.

A waxing crescent moon looks opposite in opposite hemispheres

A thin, curved sickle shape of the moon is seen in the sky from anywhere in the world during a waxing crescent moon. However, it looks opposite in opposite hemispheres.

The right side of the moon is seen as a curved sickle shape from the northern hemisphere, and the left side of the moon is seen as a curved sickle shape from the southern hemisphere during a waxing crescent moon.

People living in the southern hemisphere (south of the equator) observe the same waxing crescent moon from opposite angles than the people living in the northern hemisphere (north of the equator) and the waxing crescent moon looks upside down.

Read about all eight phases of the moon:

New moon

Waxing crescent

First quarter

Waxing gibbous 

Full moon 

Waning gibbous 

Third quarter 

Waning crescent

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About the Author

Ashim

Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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