Full moon explanation with diagram

This page explains the full moon and the other moon phases with a diagram.
If you want to see the current moon phase visit tonight's actual moon phase and image of the moon.

Each of the 4 lunar phases (new moon, first quarter, full moon, last quarter) lasts approximately 7 days (~7.4 days), but varies slightly due to lunar apogee and perigee.

We only see the Moon because sunlight reflects back to us from its surface. See the diagram of the full moon below.

Depending on earth's, moon's and sun's positions we see a different area of the moon being illuminated by the sun. The changing positions appear to us as different moon phases.

When the earth, the moon and the sun are almost aligned, most of the surface of the moon (as seen from the earth) is illuminated by the sun. Therefore, the moon appears as "full". This occurs approximatelly every 29.53 days

diagram of a full moon with the earth and sun positions
Moon phases diagram/image credits: StarChild team at Nasa

 
Moon phase image

Moon phases software screen saver.

If you are interested in the phases of the moon or you like night sky screensavers, download the StarMessage screensaver for Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OS X.
The screensaver displays the moon in its current moon phase, reminds you about the upcoming full moon dates, shows you the names of the full moon, and does much more.