Illustration for article titled How to Memorize All Eight Phases of the Moon EasilyPhoto: Eric Boucher (Shutterstock)

What most people know about the moon is that it orbits the earth and that it may or may not have a giant face engraved on it. But the luminescent sphere contains a multitude that may interest amateur stargazers, and understanding their phases is a good place to start. Memorizing a simple memory device can help you become an amateur Galileo, or at least impress a friend or a date.

First a little about the phases of the moon

The only reason we can even see the moon is because of the sun, which is the only source of light in our solar system. The moon enters in phases, depending on its orbit; When the moon is fully lit by the sun, we have a full moon.

After the full moon, the light of the globe gradually diminishes as it moves farther away from the earth, until it returns to please us again with its glory (i.e. another full moon).

The moon presents itself in eight different phases during its 27-day cycle. distilled here by NASA:

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  • new moon
  • Increasing Moon
  • First quarter
  • Gibbous grow
  • Full
  • Waning gibbous
  • Third quarter
  • Waning moon

Since you will likely have trouble remembering these terms without a little help, there is an acronym that will help you remember the order of the moons. Like the website A star in a star indicates thisYou can remember the order of the moons by using the phrase “Never Stop Getting Food” that appears when read over the first few letters of each word New moon, half moon, quarter, gibbous and Full (i.e. NCQGF).

Of course, then the waning side of the moon comes into play, which requires you to reverse the order of the letters – FGQCN – for Full, gibbous, quarter, crescent moon, and New.

Remember these three letters

The next memory device to remember depends on what hemisphere you live in. For people in the northern hemisphere, however, it is “DOC”. For people in the southern hemisphere, the device is inverted and becomes “cash on delivery”. There is no standard scientific reason for this rule to exist as it is simply the product of the shape of the visible moon.

It all depends on which side of the moon is lit. If the right side of the moon is visible while the left side is still dark, you basically have a D shape indicating a growing crescent moon and the first quarter.

A full “O” represents a growing gibbous and a full moon, while a “C” is represented by a waning gibbous, third quarter, or waning crescent, the latter most closely resembling a “C”.

All of this, of course, is reversed when you look at the moon from the southern hemisphere. How EarthSky explains: “Observers in the northern and southern hemisphere apparently see the moon upside down to one another.”

Understanding the moon is key

The gibbous moon occurs on either side of the invisible new moon, making it either the growing “D” or the decreasing “C” in the reminder.

The website science explains how this works and how it can be educational in understanding how the moon works in general:

A gibbous moon is an almost entire moon with a crescent of darkness covering one side of the moon. The light portion of the gibbous moon is slightly egg-shaped, and the gibbous moon comes on either side of the full moon.

Basically, the phases of the moon take place over the course of a month and you can follow the cycle by keeping an eye on the “DOC” device. That way you can look up to the stars and tell your friends that a full moon is coming and convince them that you are a cosmological sage.