Moon at First Quarter

Tuesday 12th Feb 201922:28

The Moon will be prominent in the evening sky, setting around midnight.

From London , it will become visible at around 17:31 (BST) as the dusk sky fades, 52° above your southern horizon. It will then reach its highest point in the sky at 18:00, 52° above your southern horizon. It will continue to be observable until around 00:24, when it sinks to 8° above your western horizon.

At this time in its monthly cycle of phases, it appears almost exactly half illuminated.

The Moon’s path in coming days

Over coming days, the Moon will set later each day, becoming visible for more of the night. Within a few days, it will not make it very far above the eastern horizon before nightfall. By the time it reaches full phase, it will be visible for much of the night, rising at around dusk and setting at around dawn.

Its day-by-day progress is charted below, with all times are given below in London local time.

Date Sun
sets at
sets at
Altitude of Moon
at sunset
Direction of Moon
at sunset
07 Feb 2019 16:53 19:28 15° south-west
08 Feb 2019 16:55 20:32 23° south-west
09 Feb 2019 16:57 21:39 31° south-west
10 Feb 2019 16:59 22:45 38° south
11 Feb 2019 17:01 23:52 44° south
12 Feb 2019 17:02 01:01 48° south
13 Feb 2019 17:04 01:01 51° south-east
14 Feb 2019 17:06 02:15 50° south-east
15 Feb 2019 17:08 03:26 46° south-east
16 Feb 2019 17:10 04:35 39° east
17 Feb 2019 17:12 05:37 30° east
18 Feb 2019 17:13 06:30 20° east

Observing the Moon at first quarter

The Moon orbits the Earth once every four weeks, causing its phases to cycle through new moon, first quarter, full moon, last quarter, and back to new moon once every 29.5 days.

As it progresses through this cycle, it is visible at different times of day. At last quarter, it rises at around midnight, appears high in the sky by dawn, and sets at around midday. Click here for more information about the Moon’s phases.

The period when the Moon shows half phase is ideal for observing the Moon with a pair of binoculars or a small telescope. The border between the light and dark portions of the Moon’s disk is the best place to look for detail on its surface, because along this line, the Moon’s surface is illuminated at a very shallow angle. As a result, mountains and crater rims cast long shadows which are very easy to see. An observer on the Moon would see the Sun on the horizon, casting long shadows just like the ones we see on Earth at sunrise and sunset.

At first quarter and last quarter, when the terminator line is down the middle of the Moon, it is best presented for view, without any foreshortening.

Seasonal variation

Although the Moon passes first quarter every month, it is more favourably placed in the early evening sky at some times of year than others.

It appears high up in the evening sky around the spring equinox, but much lower towards the horizon around the autumn equinox.

This is because it always lies close to a line across the sky called the ecliptic. This marks the flat plane in space in which all of the planets circle the Sun. It is the line through the zodiacal constellations that the Sun follows through the year.

The altitude at which the Moon appears above the horizon at sunset depends how steeply the line of the ecliptic is inclined to the horizon. If the plane of the ecliptic meet the horizon at a very shallow angle, the Moon will rise or set along a line which is almost parallel to the horizon, and a large separation from the Sun along this line would still only correspond to a very low altitude in the sky.

The inclination of the ecliptic plane to the horizon at London varies between 61° (sunset at the spring equinox) and 15° (sunset at the autumn equinox). On February 12, the ecliptic is inclined at 55° to the western sunset horizon, as shown by the yellow line in the planetarium view above, meaning that on this occasion the Moon is very favourably placed for viewing from London.

The Moon’s position

At the moment it reaches first quarter, the Moon’s distance from the Earth will be 384,000 km. Its exact position will be as follows:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Angular Size
The Moon 03h29m50s +14°10′ Taurus 31’01”

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

This entry in the observing calendar was provided by