I don’t know about you, but some nights, it feels like there is something missing. I go outside, and it seems to be darker than usual. Terribly dark, in fact. Why can’t I see…*GASPS* The moon! Where is it? Surely this isn’t right. No human should have to go a single night without catching sight of the moon’s mesmerizing beauty as it acts as Earth’s very own night light. Well, unfortunately, it happens. So why can’t we see the moon every night? Where’s it hiding? Let’s find out!
So, why can’t you see the moon every night? You may not be able to see the moon for three different reasons. The first is because the moon is completing its new moon phase, which involves the illuminated side of the moon facing away from Earth. This happens once a month. The second reason is that there are too many clouds in the sky blocking our view of the moon. And the third is due to your location.
Let’s now delve into these reasons in greater detail before turning to how to get better views, should you want to observe it!
Why Can’t I See The Moon At Night?
You can’t see the moon at night if it is in the process of completing its new moon phase, the night sky is too cloudy, and/or you’re viewing it from an unsuitable location.
So, there are several causes that explain why you sometimes can’t see the moon at night. Let’s talk through them!
It’s A New Moon Phase
The moon goes through different phases, all of which it transitions through and completes within 29 and a half days.
Now, remember that fact because it’s going to be useful in a moment and also later on!
When the moon orbits earth, only half of it is illuminated by the sun’s rays. Hence the well-known phrase ‘the dark side of the moon’.
The new moon phase occurs monthly at the end of the 29 and a half days cycle. It is during this phase that we cannot see the moon from Earth.
Why? During this phase, the moon is between the sun and the Earth, but the side that is usually illuminated is facing away from Earth.
Instead, the darker side of the moon is facing Earth.
That dark side really is dark. So dark that we just can’t see it in the night sky.
As a consequence, we are simply unable to see the moon in the sky during the new moon phase.
Oh, it’s still up there. It’s just that the illuminated side is facing away into the cosmos, whilst the dark side, which isn’t reflecting any of the sun’s rays, is now facing toward us.
It’s Too Cloudy
Do you know what I hate? A day that is warm but cloudy. If it’s warm, I want to see blue skies and the sun out (although I don’t look directly at the sun as that would be dangerous).
But if it’s cloudy, the sun is blocked, and I can’t see it.
So do you know what I hate more than a day that is warm but cloudy? A night where it’s a full moon, but it’s cloudy. It just feels like a waste!
The full moon phase is here, and I want to see that bad boy in all its glory.
But the weather has got something else in mind. The weather has decided to make the sky cloudy.
You could be in the perfect location with the best telescope on the market, but if the clouds in the sky are blocking your view, you ain’t gonna catch a glimpse of the moon.
Sure, the moon might emit a glow that is discernible behind the clouds, but you still won’t be able to get a clear view until those clouds have passed.
Due To Your Viewing Location
Finally, in this chapter, let’s talk about you! The observer! Because you have a part to play in this and all.
Because no matter whether you’re using a telescope or your naked eye, the location you choose to observe the moon from is crucial.
During the moon’s cycle phases, it travels through the sky and reaches above the horizon or at least very low in the night sky.
Your position in relation to the horizon, therefore, matters immensely.
If you’re viewing in an urban area with objects blocking your view, then it’s going to be difficult to see the moon above the horizon.
So where should you go? Where there aren’t any objects or buildings that will block your view.
A cast country field would be the best bet, as you can see the horizon from afar without anything impeding your view.
Is The Moon Out Every Night?
The moon is always out every night without fail. It’s just that sometimes it might not seem like it’s out because we can’t see it. But it’s always up there.
You know, I always say to my nephew when he’s upset, ‘don’t worry, kid! There might be clouds in the sky, but the sun is always shining behind them’.
And do you know what? The same is true for the moon.
Whilst the moon may not always be visible here on the Earth’s surface, it’s always above us every night.
If it wasn’t, then something has gone seriously wrong.
The moon has either been destroyed or completely gone off its orbit’s trajectory.
Maybe Mars has stolen it.
But the point is that, just like the sun, the moon rises and sets.
Of course, the sun rises in the morning and sets at night.
It is then replaced by the moon.
Except, the moon’s pattern of rising and falling doesn’t exactly align with the sun’s. In other words, it’s not a straight-up substitution like you’d see on the football field.
In fact, during each moon cycle, the moon increasingly lags behind the sun by 50 minutes each day.
Naughty, lazy moon.
Tips And Suggestions When Observing The Moon
When trying to observe the moon, you should choose the right phase to view it, get yourself a good telescope, and use your damn telescope properly.
So, there are some significant factors to consider here. Let’s go through each one individually!
Choose The Right Time
Night is a good place to start, funnily enough. But then it’s actually a case of choosing the right time during the moon’s cycle.
This cycle is broken down into separate phases. Certain phases are particularly good for viewing the moon because this is when you can see some of its unique details.
Below is a list of the best phases to observe the moon and why this is the time to check the lunar surface out!
The Crescent Moon
When: Day 6 after a full moon
What you can see: Mare Tranquillitatis, Mare Serenitatis, Chain of Theophilus, Cyrillus, and Catharina
The Gibbous Moon
When: Day 8 after a new moon
What you can see: The Apennines, Plato, Archimedes, Aristillus and Autolycus, and Mare Imbrium
The Waning Moon
When: 21 days after a new moon
What you can see: Plato, Copernicus, Aristarchus, and Grimaldi
Choose The Right Telescope
Now the key here is to not go overboard…but don’t buy a piece of trash either.
You don’t need the biggest telescope on the market, but you need one of reasonably high quality.
If you want to really see the intricate details on the moon, then the minimum requirement for your telescope’s refractor would be that it has an aperture of 4 inches or 6 inches if it’s a Newtonian reflector.
For viewing the moon during certain phases, your telescope should get the shop done on its own.
However, if you’re observing the moon when it’s full or nearly full, then you should consider filters with it.
Filters will decrease the amount of light the telescope receives from a full moon, which will prevent a dazzling effect.
Trust me; a full moon is pretty damn bright. If you want to see it clearly, you’ll probably need filters to help you out here.
Use Your Telescope Properly
A big mistake people make is they use too high a magnification when using their telescope to observe the moon.
I would suggest that you don’t exceed a magnification power of x50 per inch of aperture.
If you look through your telescope and the image there is blurry, then reduce the magnification power.
So, even though the moon is out every night and sometimes during the day as well, it’s not always visible.
Sometimes that’s because of its own doing through its unique cycle; other times, it’s to do with the weather or where we’re viewing it from.
If you really want to get a great view of the moon, then buy yourself a great telescope!
Other moon guides you may want to check out:
- Does The Moon Produce Its Own Light?
- Is It Safe To Look At The Moon Through A Telescope?
- Can A Telescope See The Flag On The Moon?
- How Many Countries Have Been To The Moon?
Hey, my name is Jeremy. I’m a passionate and seasoned astronomer who loves nothing more than observing the night sky. I also love researching, learning, and writing all things Space and the Universe. I created Astronomy Scope to share my knowledge, experience, suggestions, and recommendations of what I have learned along the way while helping anyone to get into and maximize their enjoyment of the hobby.