Moon Phases

Moon Phases Explained

The phases of the moon are caused by the relative positions of the earth, sun, and moon. The moon goes around the earth, on average, in 27 days 7 hours 43 minutes.

The sun always illuminates the half of the moon facing the sun (except during lunar eclipses, when the moon passes thru the earth's shadow). When the sun and moon are on opposite sides of the earth, the moon appears "full" to us, a bright, round disk. When the moon is between the earth and the sun, it appears dark, a "new" moon. In between, the moon's illuminated surface appears to grow (wax) to full, then decreases (wanes) to the next new moon.

The edge of the shadow (the terminator) is always curved, being an oblique view of a circle, giving the moon its familiar crescent shape. Because the "horns" of the moon at the ends of the crescent are always facing away from the setting or rising sun, they always point upward in the sky. It is fun to watch for paintings and pictures which show an "impossible moon" with the horns pointed downwards.

How the Moon Affects Wildlife

The phases of the moon are known to affect wildlife movement. Many hunters, especially deer hunters, believe they can increase their odds of success by hunting during certain phases of the moon.

The different phases of the moon determine the amount of reflected light we see. This is caused by the position of the sun, earth and moon. As the amount of light on the moon, moving from right to left, is increasing, the moon is said to be waxing. When the amount of light decreases (or the darkness increases), the moon is said to be waning. This is only true in the Northern Hemisphere; it's the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere.

John Alden Knight took folklore, along with some research, and came up with the Solunar Theory. He found the sun, moon, and tides affected fish and wildlife activity. Knight published his Solunar Tables in 1936. The tables, now published in many sporting magazines and online, provide the best times for fishing and hunting.

The Solunar Theory states the closer you are to the sun or moon, the stronger the influence. The day of a new (dark) or full (light) moon provides the strongest influence each month.

Hunters know that game tend to feed during dawn and dusk. What increases wildlife activity is the effect of a moonrise or moonset along with the specific monthly phases of new and full moons. When a Solunar Period falls within 30-60 minutes of sunrise or sunset, it's good. When there is a moonrise or moonset during that same period, it's better! The peak time, however, is when all of those times occur during a new or full moon.

This is where solunar tables come in. You must calculate the precise times from each table by taking into account your geographic location (east or west) of a base point (Time Zone) and adjusted for Daylight Savings Time. The tables help a hunter find the days and times of peak wildlife activity.

Keep in mind that other factors will affect wildlife activity, such as the weather, the rut, hunting pressure, etc.

More Information

Visit the following Web sites to view and purchase solunar tables:

You can also read more about the effects of the moon on wildlife by reading the following articles:


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