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Moon phases and libration


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Phases of the Moon. Sequence showing the Moon's phases and libration over one lunar month, from new Moon to new Moon, centred on the full Moon of 6th May 2012. The Moon's libration is the rocking back and forth of its face as seen from Earth: although the Moon is tidally locked to Earth, and only shows one face to us, we can see more than half, some 59%, of the lunar surface. This is due to the eccentricity of the Moon's orbit, its axial tilt, and the rotation of the Earth slightly changing the viewing angle. This lunar month includes both 2012's closest perigee full Moon, that is, when the Moon is closest to Earth at its full phase (colloquially known as a "supermoon"), and the most distant apogee at new Moon, when the Moon is furthest from Earth. At these extremes, the Moon appears noticeably larger and smaller than usual. On 20th May 2012, two weeks after the "supermoon", the distant new Moon will pass in front of the Sun, causing an annular solar eclipse. This is when the Moon is so far away that it appears smaller than the Sun in the sky, and does not fully cover the Sun's disc at eclipse, leaving a ring visible around the moon. This annular eclipse will be visible from parts of eastern China, Japan, the northern Pacific and parts of the USA.

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