Moon phases: what they are and how they affect nature

Moon phases: what they are, how they work and how they affect agriculture

The study of lunar phases and, more generally, the observation of Luna they represent activities that have fascinated man since ancient times. Already the remote pre-Columbian civilizations analyzed the appearance and movements of the lunar surface, considering the luminous satellite of the Earth as a divinity. Over the millennia, humans have also understood how lunar cycles can affect certain human activities, in particular theagriculture.

But what are the phases of the moon and, above all, what effect do they have on the Earth? Everyone has certainly heard the most varied popular beliefs regarding the role of the Moon on crops, so much so that these expressions have entered the common imagination by right. In fact, how many times have we stopped to ask ourselves, before decanting a plant, if the Moon was waning or waxing?

It is a very rich popular knowledge, which also finds some confirmation on a scientific level. Here are some useful indications.

Moon phases: what they are

By phases of the moon we mean the different appearance that the Moon assumes when observed from the Earth, in different time periods. Indeed, our planet’s natural satellite does not always appear the same on cloudless nights, but varies according to its revolution around the Earth, its inclination towards the Sun and its rotation around this star.

The revolution motion of the Moon around the Earth is just over 27 days and is called sidereal month. The phases of the moon are slightly longer, about 29 days, and are defined together synodic month. This synodic month is also the basis of the Gregorian calendar, the one still used throughout the world today.

Precisely because of its revolution around the Earth, and its inclination with respect to the Sun, at different times of the synodic month the satellite will appear differently illuminated in the eyes of the human observer. The cycle of these variations – from full darkness to full illumination – represents the cycle of the phases of the moon.

How you see the Moon from the Earth

Before going into the details of the phases of the moon, however, it is necessary to understand how the Moon is usually seen from the Earth. Since the rotational movement of the Moon and the Earth on their respective axes is almost similar, our natural satellite always shows the same “face”To our Planet. In other words, at any time of the year we always observe the same portion of the Moon, which will be illuminated differently by the rays of the Sun.

What determines the alternation of the phases of the moon

As already mentioned, the alternation of the phases of the moon is determined by some astronomical phenomena due to the movements that the Planet and its satellite make:

  • the motion of revolution of the Moon around the Earth;
  • the position and inclination of the Moon with respect to the Sun.

What are the phases of the moon

Lunar phases

Generally speaking, they are considered four main moon phases: the new moon, the waxing moon, the full moon and the waning moon. However, the intermediate intervals, thus arriving at eight differentiated phases:

  • New Moon;
  • Crescent moon;
  • First quarter;
  • Growing gibbous;
  • Full moon;
  • Waning gibbous;
  • Last quarter;
  • Declining.

Below are the details on the four main phases.

New Moon

The first day – or New Moon – represents the first phase of the solar cycle. The satellite is aligned between the Sun and the Earth and, consequently, it does not appear illuminated from our Planet. In fact, the sun’s rays hit the “face” of the Moon opposite to the one facing the Earth and, consequently, it will visually appear in the shade. When the alignment between the three stars is perfect, thesolar eclipse.

Crescent moon

Crescent moon

In its revolutionary movement, after the new moon our satellite appears progressively more and more displaced towards the East. The Moon will therefore appear partially illuminated if observed from the Earth, with a conformation of “wedges” gradually increasing until reaching the full moon.



When the Earth is between the Sun and the Moon, the phase of plenilunio: the face of the satellite visible from our planet appears completely illuminated. In the sky you can then admire a splendid Full moon. When the alignment between the three stars is perfect, thelunar eclipse.

falling moon

falling moon

In the final phase of its cycle, that of the falling moon, the illuminated part of the satellite appears day by day smaller and smaller, with a progression “in segments” until its complete darkness. We then return to the new moon and the cycle, consequently, starts all over again.

Difference between northern and southern hemisphere

To fully understand the phases of the moon, it is useful to underline a curiosity: the appearance of the satellite seen from the Earth is different depending on you are in the northern or southern hemisphere of the globe.

  • Boreal Emisphere: when the moon is waxing, the illuminated part of its surface is the right, the darkened one the left;
  • Southern hemisphere: the opposite occurs, in the growing moon the illuminated part is the left and the darkened one is the right.

How the phases of the moon affect agriculture


Since ancient times, man has understood the influence of the lunar cycle on agriculture. The crops in fact, they responded differently to the phases of the moon, with faster or slower growth rates depending on the presence of a waning or waxing Moon.

The fact that the Moon could influence the terrestrial nature has been known since ancient times, just think of the phenomenon of tides, due precisely to the attractive capacity of the satellite on our planet. But it is only in recent times that science has understood why moonlight can stimulate crops: given their frequency and color, it seems that the sun’s rays reflected by the satellite are more able to penetrate the ground than direct ones. of a sunny day. This affects the germination capacity of the seeds and, of course, also on the speed of development of the plant.

This phenomenon has prompted farmers, over the centuries, to define a list of vegetables that benefit from sowing in the waxing moon and others, instead, who prefer the waning moon.

What to grow in the growing moon

parsley herbs

According to the valid peasant beliefs, in the periods of growing Moon it is possible to cultivate:

  • Tubers and roots such as beets, sweet potatoes and radishes;
  • Legumes such as beans, broad beans, croissants and chickpeas;
  • Green leafy vegetables such as parsley, sage, rosemary, coriander, thistle and lettuce;
  • Fruits and vegetables such as melons, watermelons, peppers, tomatoes, pumpkins, courgettes and cucumbers.

Of course, the list is not definitive since agricultural beliefs – often handed down orally – can also vary from one region of Italy to another.

What to grow in the waning moon


When the moon is waning, wise farmers advise instead to cultivate:

  • Tubers and roots such as potatoes and new potatoes, rave and late chard;
  • Small-leaved legumes, such as green beans;
  • Green leafy vegetables and vegetables such as chard or chard, cauliflower, cabbage and iceberg lettuce;
  • Vegetables and bulbs such as garlic, onion and fennel.

Other influences of the Moon


Always according to popular beliefs, some of which are also confirmed on a scientific level, the motion of the Moon around the earth can also influence:

  • Growth of nails e hair: it is said that cutting the hair or nails in the waxing Moon phase promotes rapid growth, while when it is waning, the cut will last longer;
  • Pregnancy: Although there is no precise scientific evidence, many believe that the lunar cycle affects the menstrual cycle, making women more fertile during the full moon. Still, popularly it is believed that births on the waxing moon are more related to the birth of children, while those on the waning moon to girls.

Source: GreenStyle by

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