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The Moon is lit up by the sun as it goes around (orbits) the Earth. This means sometimes people on Earth can see the whole Moon and other times only small parts of it. This is because the Moon does not emit light. People only see the parts that are reflecting light from the Sun. These different stages are called Phases of the Moon. It takes the Moon about 29.53 days (29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes) to complete the cycle, from big and bright to small and dim and back to big and bright. As the Moon passes between the Earth and Sun, this phase is called the New Moon. The next phase of the moon is called the "waxing crescent", followed by the "first quarter", "waxing gibbous", then to a full moon. A full Moon occurs when the moon and sun are on opposite sides of the Earth. As the Moon continues its orbit it becomes a "waning gibbous", "third quarter", "waning crescent", and finally back to a new moon. People used the moon to measure time. A month is approximately equal in time to a lunar cycle.
The phases of the Moon
The moon always shows the same side to Earth. Astronomers call this phenomenon tidal locking. This means that half of it can never be seen from Earth. The side facing away from Earth is called the dark side of the Moon even though the sun does shine on it—we just never see it lit.
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