Moon in 2014

Moon Phases Mosaic

As the Moon orbits Earth, its changing geometry with respect to the Sun produces the characteristic phases. This composite image is a mosaic made from 25 individual photos of the Moon and illustrates its phases over one synodic month. For complete details about this image, see Moon Phases Mosaic. The individual images included in this composite can be found in the Moon Phases Gallery. For more composites, see Moon Phases Mosaics. Photo copyright 2012 by Fred Espenak.

As the Moon orbits Earth, its changing geometry with respect to the Sun produces the Moon’s characteristic phases (New Moon, First Quarter, Full Moon and Last Quarter). One orbit of the Moon relative to the Sun (the synodic month) has a mean duration of 29.53 days.

The table below lists the date and time of the Moon’s phases throughout 2014. The time of each phase is given in Greenwich Mean Time or GMT (a.k.a. Universal Time or UT). To convert GMT to Eastern Standard Time (EST) just subtract 5 hours. To convert GMT to other time zones, visit Time Zones.

                    Moon Phases for 2014 (GMT)

   New Moon      First Quarter      Full Moon       Last Quarter
-------------    -------------    -------------    -------------   
Jan  1  06:14    Jan  7  22:39    Jan 15  23:52    Jan 24  00:19    
Jan 30  16:39    Feb  6  14:22    Feb 14  18:53    Feb 22  12:15    
Mar  1  03:00    Mar  8  08:27    Mar 16  12:09    Mar 23  20:46    
Mar 30  13:45    Apr  7  03:31    Apr 15  02:42    Apr 22  02:52    
Apr 29  01:14    May  6  22:15    May 14  14:16    May 21  07:59    
May 28  13:40    Jun  5  15:39    Jun 12  23:11    Jun 19  13:39    
Jun 27  03:09    Jul  5  06:59    Jul 12  06:25    Jul 18  21:08    
Jul 26  17:42    Aug  3  19:50    Aug 10  13:09    Aug 17  07:26    
Aug 25  09:13    Sep  2  06:11    Sep  8  20:38    Sep 15  21:05    
Sep 24  01:14    Oct  1  14:33    Oct  8  05:51    Oct 15  14:12    
Oct 23  16:57    Oct 30  21:48    Nov  6  17:23    Nov 14  10:16    
Nov 22  07:32    Nov 29  05:06    Dec  6  07:27    Dec 14  07:51    
Dec 21  20:36    Dec 28  13:31                                        

I’ve generated a table of the Moon’s phases covering 100 years at Moon’s Phases – 21st Century (GMT). Similar 100-year tables for other time zones include Eastern Standard Time (EST), Central Standard Time (CST), Mountain Standard Time (MST), and Pacific Standard Time (PST).

What surprises many people is that the length of the synodic month can vary by over 6 hours from its mean value of 29.5306 days (29 days 12 hours 44 minutes). The table below gives the date of New Moon, the length of the synodic month, and the difference from the synodic month’s mean value for every synodic month in 2014. For instance, the first synodic month of 2014 is 2 hours 20 minutes shorter than the mean while the nineth month (beginning Aug 25) is 3 hours 17 minutes longer than the mean.

              Synodic Months for 2014 

   Date/Time of        Length of     Dif. from
  New Moon (GMT)     Synodic Month   Mean Month 
------------------   -------------  -----------
2014 Jan 01  11:14    29d 10h 24m    -02h 20m
2014 Jan 30  21:39    29d 10h 21m    -02h 23m 
2014 Mar 01  08:00    29d 10h 45m    -01h 59m
2014 Mar 30  18:45    29d 11h 30m    -01h 14m
2014 Apr 29  06:14    29d 12h 26m    -00h 18m
2014 May 28  18:40    29d 13h 28m    +00h 44m
2014 Jun 27  08:08    29d 14h 33m    +01h 49m
2014 Jul 26  22:42    29d 15h 31m    +02h 47m
2014 Aug 25  14:13    29d 16h 01m    +03h 17m 
2014 Sep 24  06:14    29d 15h 43m    +02h 59m
2014 Oct 23  21:57    29d 14h 36m    +01h 52m
2014 Nov 22  12:32    29d 13h 04m    +00h 20m
2014 Dec 22  01:36    29d 11h 38m    -01h 06m

The year 2008 had even greater extremes in the synodic month – from 5 hours 48 minutes shorter, to 6 hours 49 minutes longer than the mean value. So what causes these variations? The explanation lies in the fact that the Moon’s orbit is elliptical. If New Moon occurs when the Moon is nearest to Earth (perigee), then the synodic month is shorter than normal. On the other hand, if New Moon occurs when the Moon is farthest from Earth (apogee), then the synodic month is longer than normal. Furthermore, the orientation of the Moon’s ellipse-shaped orbit slowly rotates in space with a period of about 18 years. A more detailed discussion on this topic can be found at Moon’s Orbit and the Synodic Month. You can also find the duration of every synodic month this century at Length of the Synodic Month: 2001 to 2100.

Because the Moon orbits Earth in ~29.5 days with respect to the Sun, its daily motion against the background stars and constellations is quite rapid. It averages about 12.2° per day. A table giving the Moon’s daily celestial coordinates throughout the year can be found at 2014 Moon Ephemeris. This table lists a lot of other details about the Moon including its daily distance, apparent size, libration, phase age (days since New Moon) and the phase illumination fraction. See the above table for descriptions of all these terms.

A Super Moon is a Full Moon that occurs within 90% of the Moon’s closest approach to Earth in a given orbit. The Full Moon then appears especially big and bright since it subtends its largest apparent diameter as seen from Earth. The table below lists the Super Moons occurring in 2014.

              Super Moons for 2014 

   Full Moon     Distance  Diameter  Relative
    (GMT)          (km)    (arc-min) Distance

Jun 13  04:11     365038     32.73    0.931
Jul 12  11:25     358975     33.29    0.985
Aug 10  18:09     356898     33.48    1.000
Sep 09  01:38     359182     33.27    0.983
Oct 08  10:51     365659     32.68    0.925

The Relative Distance listed in this table expresses the Moon’s distance as a fraction between apogee (0.0) and perigee (1.0). For much more on Super Moons and a complete list of them for this century, see Full Moon at Perigee (Super Moon): 2001 to 2100.

Besides its obvious phases, the Moon also undergoes some additional extremes in its orbit including: Perigee and Apogee, Ascending/Descending Nodes, and Lunar Standstills. Each of the above links covers lunar phenomena for the entire 21st Century.

Moon Phases Mosaic

A mosaic made from 9 individual photos of the Moon captures its phases over one synodic month. For complete details about this image, see Moon Phases Mosaic. The individual images included in this composite can be found in the Moon Phases Gallery. For more composites, see Moon Phases Mosaics. Photo copyright 2012 by Fred Espenak.

One of the first projects I tacked upon completing Bifrost Observatory in 2010 was to photograph the Moon’s phases every day for a complete month. Of course, the weather doesn’t always cooperate (even from sunny Arizona) so it actually took several months to complete the project. You can see the results at the Moon Phases Gallery. Clicking on any of the thumbnails pictures will give you an enlarged image with complete technical details. You can also visit Moon Phases Mosaics to see composites showing the Moon’s phases over a complete synodic month.

Last year (2013), NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) team created clever animation using data from both the LRO and Clementine missions. It illustrates the Moon’s phases throughout 2013 at 1-hour intervals.

Besides presenting the Moon’s phase and apparent size, the video shows the Moon’s orbital position with respect to the Sun and Earth, and it’s distance from Earth. As the Moon orbits Earth, it appears to wobble and tip on its axis. This motion is called libration and it allows us to see about 59% of the Moon’s surface. The major cause of libration is due to our changing line of sight because of the Moon’s elliptical orbit.

Finally, what discussion of the Moon would be complete without mentioning eclipses in 2014? There are two eclipses of the Moon and both of them are total. The first occurs on April 15 and the second, six months later on October 8. Both of them are well placed for viewing from North America. There are also two solar eclipses. The first is an annular eclipse in Antarctica on April 29 (a partial eclipse is visible from Australia). The second is a partial solar eclipse visible from most of North America on October 23. I’ve written an article with more information at Eclipses During 2014.

Watching the Moon’s phases wax and wane as well as the occasional lunar eclipse can best be enjoyed with the naked eye and binoculars. And you don’t even need a dark sky since the Moon is easily visible from the heart of brightly lit cities.

The Moon phases and lunar phenomena discussed here were all generated with computer programs I’ve written (THINK Pascal running on a Macintosh G4) using Astronomical Algorithms (Jean Meeus).

Fred Espenak

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