Think of all the different sizes, shapes, and colors you have seen represented just by looking at the moon. Just like trees change with the seasons, our moon kind of has its own little seasons! The moon takes about one month to rotate around Earth. Does it look the same every night? No! It undergoes a transformation! As the moon rotates, light is reflected more or less, depending on where the moon is positioned in relation to Earth and the sun.
When the moon is illuminated by the sun fully and the Earth is not blocking it, we see a full moon. This is when the moon looks like a perfect bright circle. When the moon is hiding behind the Earth and is hidden from the sun, we see a new moon. The moon is dark and difficult to see. In between the new moon and full moon, we see crescent moons, quarter moons, and gibbous moons. Waxing means the moon is getting larger and moving towards a full moon, and waning means the moon is getting smaller and moving towards a new moon.
Lunar eclipses occur when the sun, Earth, and moon are aligned in that order. Thus, lunar eclipses only occur during a full moon. The Earth blocks the moon from the sun’s light, and the Earth’s shadow, or umbra, is cast upon the moon. This shadow gives the moon a reddish glow.
In a partial eclipse, only a portion of the moon is shadowed by the Earth’s umbra, or shadow.
If the Earth and the moon orbited in the same plane, there WOULD be a lunar eclipse with every Full Moon and a solar eclipse with every New Moon. Because the Earth’s and moon’s orbits are off by about five degrees and the nodes move thirty degrees clockwise each month, the moon only aligns with the nodes (thus creating eclipses) about four to seven times every year.
Experience the phases of the moon!
You will need:
- A styrofoam ball
- A popsicle stick
- Clamp light
You will do:
1.Puncture the styrofoam ball with the popsicle stick.
2.The styrofoam ball represents the moon, you represent the Earth, and the clamp light represents the sun.
3.Clamp the light onto a wall or area taller than you, and turn the clamp light on.
4.Turn the room lights off.
5.Grasp the stick so that the styrofoam ball is held upright. Hold it out at arm’s length.
6.Start facing the clamp light. What do you see? The side of the ball facing you should be completely dark. Is this a new moon or a full moon?
7.Rotate counterclockwise. What happens to your “moon?”
8.Continue rotating and observe how the light/shadows change on your “moon.”
9.When you are facing directly away from the flashlight, what do you see? The side of the moon facing you should be completely illuminated. Is this a new moon or a full moon?
10. Rotate around one more time and identify points that you see a waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full moon, waning gibbous, third quarter, waning crescent, and new moon.
You will need:
- Tennis ball (represents the Earth)
- Toilet paper roll
- Marble (represents the moon)
- Flashlight (represents the sun)
You will do:
1.Set the toilet paper roll on the table so that it is standing upright.
2.Set the tennis ball on top of the toilet paper roll (picture a scoop of ice cream on a cone).
3.Cut a piece of string (6 inches or so) and tape one end to the marble.
4.Set the flashlight on the table, facing the tennis ball.
5.Turn the flashlight on.
6.Position the marble so that it is directly in front of the tennis ball and in alignment with the flashlight. The order should be marble, tennis ball, flashlight. What kind of eclipse is this? Lunar or solar? Does the light reach the marble?
7.Position the marble so that it is directly in between the tennis ball and the flashlight. The order should be tennis ball, marble, flashlight. What do you see? What kind of eclipse is this? Lunar or solar? What would you see from Earth?
Image and video credits, in order of appearance
Andonee, 2015. Diagram of Moon Phases. Uploaded from the Wikimedia Commons on 7/10/2016. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Moon_Phase_Diagram_for_Simple_English_Wikipedia.GIF File used in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
Flocabulary, 2014. Moon Phases. Uploaded from YouTube on 7/10/2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBc8QHSsFgE
Mr. Lee Science Rap, 2011. Phases of the Moon Rap. Uploaded from YouTube on 7/10/2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79M2lSVZiY4&index=1&list=UU2DwkfiWSqRXxZ685AiFdGQ
Sagredo, 2008. Geometry of a Lunar Eclipse. Uploaded from the Wikimedia Commons on 7/10/2016. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Geometry_of_a_Lunar_Eclipse.svg File released into the Public Domain.
Trouvelot, 1874. Partial Eclipse of the Moon. Uploaded from the Wikimedia Commons on 7/10/2016. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Trouvelot_-_Partial_eclipse_of_the_moon_-_1874.jpg Image is over 100 years old, and is in the Public Domain.
Tomruen, 2014. Lunar eclipse April 15 2014 Minneapolis Tomruen2. Uploaded from the Wikimedia Commons on 7/10/2016. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lunar_eclipse_April_15_2014_Minneapolis_Tomruen2.jpg. File used in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Sagredo, 2008, Geometry of a Total Solar Eclipse. Uploaded from the Wikimedia Commons on 7/10/2016. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Geometry_of_a_Total_Solar_Eclipse.svg. File released into the Public Domain.
Clark, David. View of Solar Eclipse and Building in Silhouette. Uploaded from PublicDomainPictures.net on 7/10/16. http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=148467&picture=solar-eclipse. File released into the Public Domain.
Nirjhar, Lutfar R., 2009. Solar eclipse 22 July 2009 taken by Lutfar Rahman Nirjhar from Bangladesh. Uploaded from the Wikimedia Commons on 7/10/2016. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Solar_eclipse_22_July_2009_taken_by_Lutfar_Rahman_Nirjhar_from_Bangladesh.jpg File used in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
Baird, Kevin; 2012. Annular eclipse “ring of fire”. Uploaded from the Wikimedia Commons on 7/10/2016. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Annular_eclipse_%22ring_of_fire%22.jpg File used in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.