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I've already been on quite a few overnight flights, but so far, I never saw the moon. I saw stars, other planes, city lights, but never the moon. Obviously, the moon should still be there, but somehow it's always hiding from me.

Why can't I see the moon from a passenger plane?

I have a few thoughts, but no idea if true:

  • The small window of an airplane restricts my view massively. Therefore, it's just always out of sight
  • It depends where you fly (which latitude). Some latitudes might limited direct view sight and so far I was just unlucky.
  • I was really always sitting on the wrong side of the plane.
  • Unlike when you're on the ground, seeing it from the air in the day is hard. Can be seen at night though, and I've seen it myself this year from a plane at least once! – Gagravarr Dec 22 '15 at 0:22
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    Because you somehow managed to offend her. Hell hath no fury... – JoErNanO Dec 22 '15 at 2:18
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    I've seen some mind-blowingly gorgeous, painting-like views of the moon above the clouds at night from passenger planes on more than one occasion. – Jason C Dec 22 '15 at 10:17
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    It's an elliptical way of admitting that you have never flown in a Gulfstream 600 series at night. – Gayot Fow Dec 22 '15 at 16:22
  • @GayotFow Were you the pilot or the tailgunner, old chap. :P – JoErNanO Dec 22 '15 at 18:09
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The latitude is less likely to matter than the time of the month. If it is at or near new moon, you will not see the moon at night.

The "wrong side of the plane" reason can be seen as a subset of the "small window" reason, so I would say it is a combination of the small window (combined with the plane's orientation) and the point in the lunar cycle at which you are flying.

To improve your chances of seeing the moon in the future, fly during or near the full moon, and, if you have an east-west flight, sit on the port (left) side of the plane in the Northern Hemisphere, or the starboard (right) side of the plane in the south. If you are flying from west to east, reverse that.

The full moon will be lower in the sky near the summer solstice (late June in the north; late December in the south). It will rise later and set earlier, too. If you try to see the full moon in the winter, near midnight, it is likely to be too high, unless you are very close to the pole.

If you are flying a north to south route near the full moon, the moon will be in the east (to your left) in the early evening, overhead near midnight, and to the west (right) as dawn approaches. Again, if you are flying from south to north, reverse that.

To see a dramatic crescent moon, fly a few days after the new moon on a route where you can look west just after sunset. Or, fly a few days before the new moon on a route where you can look east just before sunrise.

10

Another reason the moon is often out of sight, because it's in the sky at the same time as the Sun!

Contrary to popular child's opinion, while the Sun does define daytime, the moon is not synonymous with night time.

As we know, the Earth rotates once every 24 hours. The Moon orbits the earth once every 28 days. That means that during each of those orbits, 14 of the days are spent on the Sun-ward side of the planet. Some of these days it's visible during daylight hours, but as it passes closer in front of the Sun (occasionally causing eclipses depending on the exact orbit), the Sun's intensity outshines any reflected light from the Moon so you don't see it. On these same Sun-ward days, you won't see it at night either, because it's simply below the horizon on the wrong side of the planet.

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You must know from which direction moon will rise today and in which direction you are sitting in the plane...

This might be helpful for you... http://www.moongiant.com/phase/today/

4

To paraphrase Dirty Harry, "If you've never seen the moon while on a flight, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do you, punk?"

Seriously, except for a reduced field of view (and bad luck), there is absolutely no reason for you not to see the moon while on a flight.

3

I've seen the Moon quite often during flights, but you must do an effort to look in the right direction. You can try the Heavens-Above website, enter some coordinates the plane will be at during the flight, and study the star chart.

From more than 10 km altitude, you'll be able to see a crescent Moon very easily during broad daylight conditions. Also Venus is far more easily seen from the plane than from the ground during broad daylight conditions. Even Jupiter is visible with some effort from that altitude during midday, while from the ground it's extremely difficult.

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