Basic ScienceEarth & Geography

Why can we see the Moon during the day?

Why can we see the Moon during the day?

We all know that the earth is spinning on its axis, it takes 24 hours to complete one revolution and that is one day for us. One half of the earth faces the sun, makes it daytime while other half faces darkness makes it night-time. The Moon is also revolving around the earth. Moon can be seen only because it gets light from the Sun. We can see the moon at different times because it’s orbiting, can be seen sometimes in the night, sometimes in the day too. As moon orbits day by day, it swings around so that more of its lighted half is facing the daytime of the sun.

Let me ask you a question, what are the objects you can see in the sky, during the day? Yes, we can see only sun in the sky during the day.

We know that the sun is the brightest object in the sky, which outshines every other article in the sky, during the day. And that is why we cannot see anything else, like stars or planets in the sky in day time.

In the evening, sun sets in and then, the moon rises in the night sky. In the night, the moon seems to be the brightest object in the sky. But, it is not as bright as sun.

We know that the Moon has no light of its own. (Do you know?) But then, how can we see the moon? This is because the sun’s rays fall on the moon and these rays are bounced off of the surface of the moon towards us, so that we are able to see the moon.

At night, except the moon, we can see other objects as well. What are these? These are planets, stars.

We know that we can see the moon in the sky, during the night. There have been many stories, songs, poems composed on the topic of the moon. As we know, the moon rises in the evening and sets at dawn; that is, we can see the moon during the night, but not during the day.

But have you ever seen the moon during the day? Think, have you?

You may not have noticed it, but, sometimes the moon can be seen during the day, too. In reality, the moon is hanging around in the sky all the time.

Look at the picture, you will see a pale moon alongside a beaming sun in the sky, that too, during the day! How is this possible? To understand this phenomenon, we have to study different phases of the moon at different times for a month.

Moon in daytime
Moon in daytime

Image Credit: Alana Sise 

We know that the earth is spinning on its axis like a toy top. It takes 24 hours, that is, one day to spin once on its axis. One half of the earth faces the sun, receiving sunlight and thus making it daytime. At the same time, the other half of the earth is facing away from the sun; this part of the earth does not receive sunlight, making it night-time on this part of the earth. Okay, but what about the moon?

The Moon is also travelling around the earth in a particular path and this trend of movement is called orbiting. The moon takes nearly 30 days to complete one orbit around the earth. Another interesting fact is that, the same side of the moon faces the earth, at all times.

Fig.1

In Fig1, shaded part is the dark side and unshaded part is lit up side of the moon.

In this picture we can see different positions of the moon at different times of a month.

Image Credit: The phases of a lunar eclipse. Photo credit: Keith Burns for NASA/JPL

Just like in the case of the earth, the sun lights up only one half of the moon, and we can only see the lit up side of the moon. Now, as the earth is spinning on its own axis, and the moon is also orbiting the earth, the lit up side of the moon can be seen from the different parts of the earth and at different times of the month. Let us try and explain this.

Refer to the picture once more.

In position-1, the dark side of the moon is facing the lit up side, that is, daytime, of the earth. So on this particular day the moon cannot be seen from the earth. Do you know what the speciality of this day is? Yes, this particular day is called the new moon day.

Now, in position 2 and 8, moon is on the day side of the earth and we can see some parts of the moon from earth, during the daytime. But remember, at this period of time we can see only some parts of the moon, similar to a cookie with a bite taken away from it.

Sometimes it appears like a thin curved shape or just like your tip of your fingernail. In the 3rd and 7th position, the moon can be seen both during day and at night. But why? This is because in the picture you can see the lit up side of the moon is in such a position that it is facing both the day and night side of the earth, at the same time.

But, in the 4th, 5th, and 6th positions, the moon appears only at night. So at this period of time, the moon can be seen more at night time.

Now, position 5 shows that, on a particular day, we can see the whole lit up side of the moon, just like a round plate. Can you say what this particular day is called? Yes, this day is called full moon day.

We can see the moon like a complete round shape only on full moon day. On other days of the month, we can see only some parts of the moon. The picture below illustrates the point clearly.

Another important thing is that, when the moon is on day- side of the earth, then, it is closer to the sun, and thus it receives and reflects more sunlight and appears brighter in the sky. This is also the reason why we can see the moon during the day time.

So now, I hope, the next time you see the moon on the day-sky, you will know why, and be able to explain it to your friends!

 

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Susmita Dasgupta

Susmita is a trained, veteran primary school teacher. She loves to teach and to make learning exciting for children. One of her great passions in life is to create in her students a curiosity about life and all its accompanying mysteries.

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