For those not wanting to settle for an approximation, rendering a photorealistic, properly shaded (with mountains
and craters having shadows) image is pretty easy with existing tools like
NASA's CGI Moon Kit.
Since tutorials on 3D rendering are available elsewhere, this will focus on an approximate solution which
generally looks right.
An approximate method is to imagine a plane intersecting the center of the Moon, perpendicular to the direction
of the Sun. As the phase changes, the plane is rotated about the Y axis. To keep things simple, we can ignore
any perspective distortion (e.g. ignore the Z coordinate), the Y coordinate won't change, leaving only the X
coordinate to be computed, and the rotation matrix simplifies to:
x=r \cos \theta
Where \( \theta \) is the is the phase from 0° (new moon) to 360°, and r is the radius of the full sphere.
Since the sun is an approximate .5° sphere as viewed from the moon, the terminator is not a hard edge.
Additionally, the moon's mountains and craters will also soften the transition from light to dark, so the
code below creats a 2° gradient between the light and dark regions to provide a more realistic effect.
Moon Image Credit: NASA