When I purchased my first telescope, I would wait for a full moon when observing the moon. Yes, the views were excellent; however, I wasn’t getting the best views of our closest neighbor. Despite what newer people to telescopes may believe the moon’s best time to observe would be a full moon, we are a little off.
The moon has a 29.5-day lunar cycle and eight phases and wax on to the full moon and wane off to the next new moon. The best time to observe is 2-12 days in the waxing stages of the moon phases. On the Waning phases, it is best to observe the moon between 16-28 days of the moon phases.
So, out of a 29.5 lunar cycle, we have 19 days that are excellent for moon observing; this leaves us with 10.5 days that are not optimum. However, this is not to say you will not get fantastic views through your telescope; it will just be harder to pick out surface features.
If you are searching for the lunar 100, then every day of the moons 29.5 days lunar cycle will be a day to get out the telescope. As every day is an optimal day for one or more of the moon’s surface features, you will hunt down.
Why are these the best days?
The moons bathed in the sunlight; this is why people ask is it safe to observe the moon. Yes, it is perfectly safe, but this sunlight has a significant bearing on what we will see thought our telescope.
When it is in a full moon phase, the moon gets the maximum light at any other stage over the sun’s 29.5 days phases. What this does is wash out all the features on the surface. When the moon is in the waxing or waning phases, the sunlight is not direct sunlit and casting shadows. So, with this effect, we can pick up more features on the surface of the moon.
The best way to demonstrate this is with a flashlight shining onto a bumpy rock. When I direct the flashlight beam straight onto the rock, we don’t see many features. When we move the beam from the flashlight from a side direction, we pick up many more features on the rock as the light from the flashlight casts shadows across the rock just how it happens on the moon. However, with the moon, the shadows are caused by the light from the sun.
The rock and flashlight are not very scientific and a little of how the earth, moon, and sun move but does give us a perfect visual look at what is happening on the moon.
Can you view the moon in the day?
Yes, you can see the moon in the day; the contrast will be much lower as we will be looking through a blue tint of a sunlit sky. However, there have to be perfect conditions to see the moon in the day.
First, it needs to be bright enough so the light can come through the sunlit blue sky. Second, you will need to be high enough in the sky so that you can see it.
The moon is visible nearly every day during the day if the two elements are in place. The things to look out for if you want to observe the moon in the daylight are when the moon is in its first and last quarters and is 90 degrees away from the sun.
Seeing the moon during daylight hours is an incredible and unique experience when you view it through a telescope. The blue tint gives the moon a whole new look and feels, and you can produce some excellent moon photography with a daytime moon.
How to find the moon phase?
Finding out the moon phases so you can get the perfect viewing is vital. We have compiled below the next five years of new moons; this is day 0. You can then work out the ideal days from there.
US New Moon Phase for the Next 5 Years
|New Moon 2020||New Moon 2021||New Moon 2022||New Moon 2023||New Moon 2024|
|24 Jan||13 Jan||2 Jan||21 Jan||11 Jan|
|23 Feb||11 Feb||1 Feb||20 Feb||9 Feb|
|24 Mar||13 Mar||2 Mar||21 Mar||10 Mar|
|22 Apr||11 Apr||1 Apr||20 Apr||8 Apr|
|22 May||11 May||30 Apr||19 May||7 May|
|21 Jun||10 Jun||30 May||18 Jun||6 Jun|
|20 Jul||9 Jul||28 Jun||17 Jul||5 Jul|
|18 Aug||8 Aug||28 Jul||16 Aug||4 Aug|
|17 Sep||6 Sep||27 Aug||14 Sep||2 Sep|
|16 Oct||6 Oct||25 Sep||14 Oct||2 Oct|
|15 Nov||4 Nov||25 Oct||13 Nov||1 Nov|
|14 Dec||4 Dec||23 Nov||12 Dec||1 Dec|
|23 Dec||30 Dec|
I like this above method; however, you can find these times out by using astronomy software or astronomy apps; there are even some websites that give you the moon phases on any given night.
Learning the night sky takes time but with the abundance of information about the moon online. Learning is much easier and you can transfer this knowledge across into a new section of the sky you want to explore.
That brings us to the end of our article, where I hope you have discovered when the best time to view the moon with a telescope is. The optimum view is between days 2-12 and days 16-28 of the moons 29.5 days lunar cycle.
We also discovered that we could view the moon if we have perfect conditions during the daytime with some unique views.
There are many questions about the moon, and we have answered many on our site. If you have a question that you would like me to answer about the moon or any other objects in our night sky, please drop a comment below.