Why You Need to Look at the Moon When It Is Not Full

Regular readers of Lifehacker know that we are big fans of the cosmos and often post updates on upcoming astronomical events, including full moons, meteor showers, and planetary alignments.

Let’s go back to the moon for a moment. When it’s full (and the sky is clear), there’s usually at least one noteworthy feature – like a particular color or size, or just being exceptionally bright. But it doesn’t disappear until the end of the month: in fact, the best time to get a relatively decent look at the moon’s surface is when it’s not full. Here’s what you need to know.

Meet the moon when it’s not full

During a full moon, the Earth faces the Moon, and the Sun is behind the Earth and shines directly on the lunar surface. This means that shadows on the Moon’s surface are minimal and you won’t be able to see much detail. Also, when the Moon is full, it can appear one-dimensional and uncomfortably bright.

So when is the best time to look at the moon? According to The Farmer’s Almanac , this is about the time when the moon is in its first or last quarter phase, and the best views of the lunar landscape, including craters, mountains, and crevices, open up along the line of sunrise and sunset.

Try using day vision

To get a better view of the moon between a quarter and a full phase, the editors of Astronomy magazine have a suggestion: turn on a moderately bright white light (about 60 watts) behind you.

“The addition of white light suppresses the eye’s tendency to dark-adapt at night,” they write. “Lack of dark adaptation forces the eye to use normal daytime vision, which is of higher quality than dark-adapted night vision. This way you will see more details because you are looking with the best part of your eye.”

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