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Is that midnight moon a half Moon or a quarter Moon tonight?

The Moon will rise after midnight reaching its third-quarter phase.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

TAMPA, Fla — It will be a dark, moonless sky this evening, but when the moon rises at 12:27 a.m. tonight, it will be reaching its quarter phase at 2:37 am. The moon will then remain visible in the southern sky all morning, setting at 12:38 p.m. Thursday afternoon. 

While the moon will be halfway illuminated, it will actually be in its third-quarter phase. There’s no such phase as a half-moon phase. When you see the moon and it looks half-illuminated, like half a pie, it's either the first or last quarter moon. 

Here are the main moon phases:

New Moon: A New Moon is mostly between the Earth and Sun, passing near the Sun in our sky making it nearly invisible. It can be slightly illuminated by Earthshine, a dull glow that lights up the unlit part of the Moon because the Sun's light reflects off the Earth's surface and back onto the Moon. The New Moon is considered the first moon phase.

First-Quarter Moon: As the Moon “waxes” or increases in illumination, it eventually reaches the first quarter moon phase. The first quarter Moon means we see half of the moon’s illuminated side (a quarter of the whole moon), and the moon is one-quarter of the way through the current orbital cycle.

Full Moon: A full Moon means that the illuminated side of the moon is fully visible. This happens when Earth is mostly between the Sun and the Moon. 

Third-Quarter Moon: After the full Moon phase, the Moon “wanes” or decreases in illumination. It eventually decreases to the third quarter Moon phase. Like the first quarter Moon phase, half of the moon’s illuminated side (a quarter of the whole moon), but the moon now is three-quarters of the way through the current orbital cycle. 

As the waning continues each day, it eventually reaches the new Moon phase all over again.

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