I am an unabashed, card carrying, telescope loving, space geek. I love photographing the moon - I do it a lot, and I mean a lot. I've shot a dozen or so lunar eclipses and even successfully captured ISS transits.
I've always wanted to come up with a personalized logo - a monogram of my initials, or some kind of mark, but was never happy with anything I designed. During this recent wipe and restart of my site I was looking at simple moon icons and created a dead simple gibbous moon. Suddenly I remembered I had previously tried (and failed) to have a dynamic moon phase icon embedded somewhere on my site. I had attempted to hook into a free weather API to parse what the current phase was, but it was buggy and would often take seconds to render (if it even rendered at all). Could I do better?
Determining the phase
After a lot of searching, playing around, head scratching, and dead ends I finally found Ben Danglish's awesome Moon Phase script that used emoji for each phase. I figured I could strip out the display portion of the script and just use the logic.
Ben's script calculates the current phase and returns a number between 0 and 1 - those being the New Moon and 0.5 being a Full Moon (today is 0.81325344501654). I tweaked the script to return a class name based on the number value instead of the emoji. I noticed the range calculation is off by a little bit - today is August 24th which is the exact third quarter moon, but his original ranges categorized it as a Waning Crescent. A few tweaks to the numbers and it should be good to go.
So now I knew what the current phase was, but how do I get that to actually display something?
My initial static design required using an inline SVG so it could inherit the text color set on each page, but now the SVG needed to change during all 8 lunar phases. My knee-jerk reaction was to create 8 separate SVGs and swap them in and out, however I realized I could flip the Crescent, Quarter, and Gibbous moons so I would only need 5.
I created them all in one Illustrator file and when I looked at the code it generated it dawned on me I could have one inline SVG, and toggle the layers - much better! I was surprised that the layer names in Illustrator were embedded in the code - I set them to lowercase to avoid confusion and dropped the code into my site.
Putting it all together
I love how simple it is, and that it doesn't rely on an API. I need to keep an eye on it over the next month and adjust the number ranges so it doesn't switch too early or too late, but I think I'm in great shape. I may add some easter eggs for special celestial events, but Ill figure that out later.