When Is The Best Time To Observe The Moon?

Most might say when it’s full, but that’s probably the worst time to look at it! Learn why.

While you might think that a full Moon is the best time to observe the Moon through a telescope, it’s actually the worst time to look at it! When the Moon is full, it tends to be overly bright as well as flat and one-dimensional in appearance.

In contrast, around the several-day interval when the Moon is around first or last quarter phase is when we get the best views of the lunar landscape right along the sunrise-sunset line, or terminator.

So if you have a telescope or even binoculars, check out the Moon during its first or last quarters. It’s at this time that craters, mountains, and clefts appear to stand out in sharp relief. In addition, a half Moon offers more viewing comfort to the eye as opposed to a full Moon.

In fact, a half Moon is heavily shadowed, even on its illuminated half. Conversely, a full Moon is completely illuminated. Especially around the center of a full Moon, the Sun shines straight down even into all the microscopic crevices. And, except for perhaps around its immediate edge or limb, there are no shadows at all. This is why the full Moon appears so much brighter than a half Moon.

Most might think a half Moon shines half as bright as a full Moon, but in reality it’s only 1/11 (9%) as bright!

If you capture any Moon images, at any of its phases, be sure to share with us on our Facebook page!

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Joe Rao is an expert astronomer.
Joe Rao

Joe Rao is an esteemed astronomer who writes for Space.com, Sky & Telescope, and Natural History Magazine. Mr. Rao is a regular contributor to the Farmers' Almanac and serves as an associate lecturer for the Hayden Planetarium in New York City.

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What's all that?

Susan Higgins

bigjohnT: People use the < symbol added to the number 3 to form a heart -- it works on some platforms but not all.


i love the moon <3 she is my heart <3 when she is full there are good things about her <3 but the bad thing she causes is the weather gets so bad sometimes just befor she is full 🙁 and then the day after a full moon <3 oohwa look out when she is on the warpath 🙁 but on the bright side she is a love <3 filled with so much love & light <3 i watch her every time and day 🙂 through my big bay window <3 she is priceless <3 <3 thank u my lovely friend 🙂 i hope u have a lovely day 🙂 smiles 😉 7 hugs <3 God Bless love jan

Burbank Rob

“She?” The moon is neither female nor male. It’s just a big ball of silicon, iron and several other gender-neutral elements.

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