The Phases of the Moon in Song

Phases of the moon

Carol-Irene Southworth, a student in Professor B’s Solar System class at the University of California at San Diego, wrote and recorded the following song describing the phases of the Moon.  If you want to play along, the chords are just C and F, in this case played on the ukulele (according to Woody Guthrie, “if you play more than two chords, you’re showing off”).

Listen here [4:18m]:

Download here [5.2 Mb]: http://pono.ucsd.edu/~adam/astrofacts/southworth_moonphasesong.mp3

Lyrics are below!

What’s the facts:

Over the course of roughly a month, the part of the Moon that is illuminated goes through a regular cycle of phases.  Starting from dark new moon phase, the Moon gradually brightens, or waxes, through waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous and finally to a bright full moon phase 14 days later.  The Moon then dims, or wanes, over the next 14 days, going through waning gibbous, third quarter, waning crescent and finally dark new moon again.  This cycle is due to the relative orientation of the Sun, Moon and Earth, and the dark portions of the Moon are always caused by its own shadow shielding the Sun’s rays.  New moon phase happens when the Sun, the Moon and the Earth are in a line, so that the far side of the Moon we can’t see is lit up.  Full moon phase happens when the Sun, the Earth and the Moon are in a line, so we see the sunlit side of the Moon.  The other phases occur in between these two alignments, which are also called syzygy.

Phases of the moon, from Wikipedia

Carol-Irene’s song also describes which side of the Moon brightens during the crescent phases.  During the waxing crescent phase the right side is lit up, as that is the side that is facing the Sun.  That reminds us that the waxing crescent Moon follows the setting Sun in the evening.  During the waning crescent the Moon is lit up “from her left side”; this Moon phase leads the rising Sun in the morning.

Carol-Irene also comments on her song:

A verse of the song that is repeated at the beginning and the end claims that “just like the sea, we are affected, we are connected” to the moon. This is meant to allude to the way that the earth and the moon are tidally locked, causing the times of high tide on earth to shift according to the moon’s position in relation to the earth. Just like this tidal relationship with the moon, humans have always had a relationship with the moon as well, and most cultures and societies have incorporated the moon into their beliefs and stories significantly.

So don’t forget to give the Moon a good howl next time you see her!

Lyrics:

come along with me
and we’ll remember
moon phases better

just like the sea
we are affected
we are connected

to the moon moon moon
to the moon moon moon
it will be soon that we’ll be howling at the moon

when she start’s she’s new,
you can barely see her
just like a sliver

then she waxes too
a growing crescent
from her right side

oh the moon moon moon
oh the moon moon moon
it will be soon we’ll be howling at the moon

when she’s halfway there
it’s the first quarter,
oh we adore her

and she waxes on
becomes gibbous
begins to fill up

oh the moon moon moon
oh the moon moon moon
it will be soon we’ll be howling at the moon

then you know she’s full
just like an ocean
is full of water

from there she wanes
growing smaller
from her left side

oh the moon moon moon
oh the moon moon moon
it will be soon we’ll be howling at the moon

when she’s halfway gone
it’s her third quarter
we watch before her

she’s waning small
into a crescent
from her left side

oh the moon moon moon
oh the moon moon moon
it will be soon we’ll be howling at the moon

already time
how fast it flew
again, she’s new

just like the sea
we are affected
we are connected

oh the moon moon moon
oh the moon moon moon
it will be soon we’ll be howling at the moon

[howl!]

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