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When is it Full Moon? At Full Moon, the entire face of the Moon is illuminated by the Sun's rays and it can be bright enough to light up otherwise dark nights. Technically, this primary Moon phase only lasts a moment, the instant when the Sun and the Moon are aligned on opposite sides of Earth see illustration.

So the exact time for Full Moon is during the day on parts of the planet. Therefore, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a Full Moon and the last stage of a Waxing Gibbous Moon or the beginning of a Waning Gibbous Moon. The Full Moon appears in our night sky when the Sun and the Moon are aligned on opposite sides of Earth. The Full Moon is visible in the sky approximately from sunset to sunrise. At the precise moment of the Full Moon alignment, the Moon is only visible in the night part of Earth, with a few exceptions.

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Full Moon is the third of the four primary Moon phases which occur at specific moments in time. In addition, there are four intermediate phases which take up the time in between the primary phases.

The Moon orbits Earth counterclockwise on an elliptical path, and the same side of the Moon always faces Earth. However, over time, the Moon rocks slightly from north to south and wobbles a little from east to west. The point of the Moon's orbit closest to Earth is called perigee and the point farthest away is known as apogee. When a Full Moon is close to the apogee , it is called a Micromoon.

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The greatest difference between high and low tide is around Full Moon and New Moon. These tides are known as spring tides or king tides. Around 2 or 3 times a year , the Full Moon comes close to the lunar nodes.


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These are the points where the Moon's orbit crosses the ecliptic, which is the path of the Sun, seen from Earth. The dark areas are volcanic—the mare , which is Latin for 'seas. In the contours and colors of the lunar surface, people can find meaningful figures for the same reason that we "see" the face of Elvis in a potato chip or Jesus in a grilled cheese sandwich. It's just the way our brains work. The phenomenon of seeing faces where there are none is a form of information-filling called pareidolia.

It's something all humans do. Joel Voss , a cognitive neuroscientist at Northwestern University, Chicago, is studying how our brains help us ascribe meaning to otherwise random assortments of shapes and lines. In studies, he has presented research participants with computer-generated squiggly lines—meaningless shapes derived from triangles or circles—and asked subjects whether the shapes resemble something meaningful. Voss used fMRI—a neuroimaging procedure that measures brain activity by tracking changes in blood flow— to study the brain regions activated when a person sees the squiggles. He found that the same areas involved in processing actual, meaningful images lit up when the squiggles were viewed.

The near side of the Moon is the lunar hemisphere that is permanently turned towards Earth , whereas the opposite side is the far side. Only one side of the Moon is visible from Earth because the Moon rotates on its axis at the same rate that the Moon orbits the Earth — a situation known as synchronous rotation , or tidal locking. The Moon is directly illuminated by the Sun , and the cyclically varying viewing conditions cause the lunar phases.

Sometimes the dark portion of the Moon is faintly visible due to earthshine , which is indirect sunlight reflected from the surface of Earth and onto the Moon. The image of the Moon here is drawn as is normally shown on maps, that is with north on top and west to the left.

The Full Moon

Astronomers usually turn the map over to have south on top, as to correspond with the view in most telescopes which also show the image upside down. West and east on the Moon are where you would expect them, when standing on the Moon.

But when we, on Earth, see the Moon in the sky, then the east—west direction is just reversed. When specifying coordinates on the Moon it should therefore always be mentioned whether geographic or rather selenographic coordinates are used or astronomical coordinates.


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The actual orientation you see the Moon in the sky or on the horizon depends on your geographic latitude on Earth. In the following description a few typical cases will be considered. The two hemispheres have distinctly different appearances, with the near side covered in multiple, large maria Latin for 'seas'.