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Moondial at Queens' College, Cambridge, showing the table of corrections for the phase of the moon

Moondials are time pieces similar to a sundial. The most basic moondial, which is identical to a sundial, is only accurate on the night of the full moon. Every night after it becomes an additional (on average)[note 1] 48 minutes slow, while every night preceding the full moon it is (again on average)[note 1] 49 minutes fast, assuming there is even enough light to take a reading by. Thus, one week to either side of the full moon the moondial will read 5 hours and 36 minutes before or after the proper time.[citation needed]

More advanced moondials can include charts showing the exact calculations to get the correct time, as well as dials designed with latitude and longitude in mind.

Moondials are very closely associated with lunar gardening (night-blooming plants) and some comprehensive gardening books may mention them.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The Moon's orbit is not circular, so it does not move around the Earth at a uniform rate. Thus while the average difference between moonrises is 48 minutes, the actual time can vary considerably (roughly 20min to 1hr50min depending on the time of year and the location of the Moon in its orbit). The time read by a moondial will also vary in a similar, though not so drastic manner.


  • Ralf Kern: Wissenschaftliche Instrumente in ihrer Zeit. Vom 15. – 19. Jahrhundert. Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König 2010, ISBN 978-3-86560-772-0