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Moon at Last Quarter

Dominic Ford, Editor
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The sky at

The Moon will be prominent in the dawn sky, rising at around midnight.

From Ashburn, it will be visible in the morning sky, becoming accessible at around 00:52, when it rises 7° above your eastern horizon. It will then reach its highest point in the sky at 07:13, 69° above your southern horizon. It will be lost to dawn twilight at around 07:18, 69° above your southern horizon.

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The Moon's path in coming days

Over coming days, the Moon will rise later each day, so that it is visible for less time before sunrise and it less far above the eastern horizon before dawn. By the time it reaches new moon, it will rise at around dawn and set at around dusk, making it visible only during the daytime.

Its day-by-day progress is charted below, with all times are given below in Ashburn local time. Over the next few days, the distance between the Moon and the Sun will decrease and it will rise later each day. By the time it disappears into the Sun's glare as it approaches new moon, it will only be visible very shortly before sunrise.

All times given below in Ashburn local time.

Date Sun
sets at
sets at
Altitude of Moon
at sunset
Direction of Moon
at sunset
26 Oct 201818:1309:0317°west
27 Oct 201818:1210:0929°west
28 Oct 201818:1011:1440°west
29 Oct 201818:0912:1852°west
30 Oct 201818:0813:1661°south-west
31 Oct 201818:0714:0968°south-west
01 Nov 201818:0514:5668°south
02 Nov 201818:0415:3561°south-east
03 Nov 201818:0316:1251°south-east
04 Nov 201817:0215:4640°south-east
05 Nov 201817:0116:1728°south-east
06 Nov 201817:0016:5017°east

Observing the Moon at last 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 variations

Although the Moon passes last quarter every month, it is more favourably placed in the pre-dawn sky at some times of year than others.

It appears high up in the pre-dawn sky around the autumn equinox, but much lower towards the horizon around the spring 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 sunrise 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 Ashburn varies between 74° (sunrise at the autumn equinox) and 27° (sunrise at the spring equinox). On October 31, the ecliptic is inclined at 68° to the eastern dawn 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 Ashburn.

The Moon's position

At the moment it reaches last quarter, the Moon's distance from the Earth will be 370,000 km. Its exact position will be as follows:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Angular Size
The Moon 08h42m10s +18°55' Cancer 32'15"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 31 October 2018
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

22-day old moon
Waning Crescent


22 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 09:36 14:20 19:04
Venus 07:05 12:13 17:21
Moon 23:48 06:58 14:09
Mars 14:58 20:05 01:13
Jupiter 09:15 14:13 19:12
Saturn 12:06 16:49 21:33
All times shown in EDT.


The circumstances of this event were computed using the DE405 planetary ephemeris published by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

This event was automatically generated by searching the ephemeris for planetary alignments which are of interest to amateur astronomers, and the text above was generated based on an estimate of your location.

Related news

31 Oct 2018, 12:42 EDT  –  Moon at Last Quarter
07 Nov 2018, 11:03 EST  –  New Moon
15 Nov 2018, 09:56 EST  –  Moon at First Quarter
23 Nov 2018, 00:41 EST  –  Full Moon

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