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Full Moon vs. New Moon: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on October 19, 2023
A Full Moon is when the moon's face is fully illuminated, while a New Moon is when it's completely in shadow and not visible from Earth.

Key Differences

A Full Moon occurs when the Earth is located directly between the sun and the moon, causing the moon to be fully illuminated. Conversely, a New Moon happens when the moon is positioned between the Earth and the sun, causing the moon to be in shadow, making it invisible from the Earth's perspective.
During a Full Moon, one can observe a bright, fully illuminated lunar disk in the night sky. In contrast, a New Moon is invisible because the side that's illuminated faces away from the Earth, blending the moon with the dark night sky.
A Full Moon often brings about higher tides due to the gravitational pull of the sun and moon being on opposite sides of the Earth. During a New Moon, the sun and moon are on the same side, also producing higher tides, but the night remains moonless.
Many cultures and traditions associate the Full Moon with myths, folklore, and rituals, often viewing it as a symbol of completeness or fulfillment. The New Moon, on the other hand, represents new beginnings and is often considered a time to set intentions or start fresh.
After a Full Moon, the moon wanes, becoming less visible each night. Following a New Moon, the moon waxes, gradually becoming more visible and leading to a Full Moon.

Comparison Chart


Fully illuminated
Not illuminated (facing away from Earth)

Visibility from Earth

Clearly visible

Position relative to Earth

Earth is between the sun and the moon
Moon is between the Earth and the sun

Cultural Symbolism

Completeness, fulfillment
New beginnings, fresh start

Following Phase

Waning phases
Waxing phases

Full Moon and New Moon Definitions

Full Moon

A lunar phase occurring when Earth is between the sun and the moon.
During the Full Moon, the tides tend to be higher.

New Moon

A period symbolizing new beginnings in various cultures.
She started her project on the New Moon for good luck.

Full Moon

A time when the moon appears as a complete circle in the sky.
Campers enjoyed their night under the Full Moon.

New Moon

A lunar phase when the moon is positioned between the Earth and the sun.
The New Moon is a great time for stargazing.

Full Moon

The phase of the moon when it's fully illuminated.
The Full Moon shone brightly overhead.

New Moon

The beginning of the lunar cycle.
Many cultures set intentions during the New Moon.

Full Moon

The midpoint of the lunar cycle.
The Full Moon marks the climax of the lunar month.

New Moon

A time when the illuminated side of the moon faces away from Earth.
The New Moon is also called the dark moon.

Full Moon

A nocturnal period with the moon's entire disk illuminated.
The werewolf legends are often associated with the Full Moon.

New Moon

The moon's phase when it's not visible from Earth.
The sky was dark during the New Moon.


When does a Full Moon occur?

A Full Moon occurs when the Earth is directly between the sun and the moon.

Why does a Full Moon shine brightly?

Because the sun's light fully illuminates the moon's surface visible from Earth.

How often does a Full Moon occur?

Roughly once a month.

What comes after a New Moon in the lunar cycle?

After a New Moon, the moon goes through waxing phases leading up to a Full Moon.

Are tides affected by the Full Moon?

Yes, the Full Moon (and New Moon) often bring about higher tides.

Is the New Moon visible?

No, the New Moon is not visible from Earth as the illuminated side faces away.

Can you see stars better during a New Moon?

Yes, the darker sky during a New Moon makes it ideal for stargazing.

Is the Full Moon related to any myths?

Many cultures have myths and folklore related to the Full Moon.

Can eclipses occur during a Full Moon?

Yes, a lunar eclipse happens during a Full Moon when Earth's shadow falls on the moon.

How does the New Moon affect the night sky?

The New Moon results in a darker night sky, ideal for observing stars and planets.

Is the Full Moon's brightness constant?

While generally bright, factors like atmospheric conditions can affect its perceived brightness.

What phase follows the Full Moon?

The waning gibbous phase follows the Full Moon.

What's the time between a New Moon and the next Full Moon?

About two weeks.

Are there any rituals associated with the New Moon?

Many cultures and traditions have rituals or practices centered around new beginnings for the New Moon.

Is the dark side of the moon ever illuminated?

Yes, during a New Moon, what we call the "dark side" is actually illuminated.

Do we see different sides of the moon during Full Moon and New Moon?

No, we always see the same side; however, during a New Moon, that side isn't illuminated.

Why is the Full Moon associated with werewolves in legends?

Folklore often links the Full Moon with transformations and heightened energies.

Why don't we see the moon during its New Moon phase?

The sun illuminates the side of the moon facing away from Earth during the New Moon.

How long does a Full Moon last?

While the exact Full Moon phase is a moment in time, to the naked eye, the moon appears full for about 3 days.

Can eclipses occur during a New Moon?

Yes, a solar eclipse happens during a New Moon when the moon's shadow falls on Earth.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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