The Universe in the Classroom

The Moon: It's Just a Phase It's Going Through...

Activity Corner

  1. How Soon Can You See a Crescent Moon?

    An interesting activity is to see what the youngest crescent Moon is that you can see. Some very experienced observers are able to see the Moon less than 24 hours after it's new. How well can you do?

    [For an article on an international effort to see a very young crescent, see: "Moonwatch--July 14, 1988" by L. Doggett, et al., in Sky & Telescope, July 1988, p.34.]

  2. When is the Moon Visible?

    It is often surprising to youngsters that the Moon sometimes can bee seen in the daytime sky. Just when the Moon rises and sets depends primarily on its phase, and only at full Moon does it behave as some might expect — that is, to rise at around sunset and be up all night long.

    Keeping track of the visibility of the Moon as it cycles through its phases can be a fascinating (and instructive) thing to do. Moon-tracking activities could follow a wealth of different paths — from precise timing of moonrise and moonset to a more general noting of where the Moon is (and what phase it's in) each time you see it.

    To help you devise a program of Moon-viewing, the accompanying table charts the times when the Moon rises, sets and so on during its different phases. we should note that the times in the table are very general (correct to within an hour or two). The precise times of moonrise, moonset, and so on depends on a number of factors besides the Moons phase — your location on Earth (latitude and longitude) has a major effect, for example. (Exact local times of moonrise and moonset are often printed in large daily newspapers, usually in the weather section.)

    Notice that knowing when the Moon rises and sets in its various phases allows you to tell time (roughly) whenever it is visible! For example, if you're awakened in the night on a camping trip and you notice a third quarter moon high in the easter sky, then you know that sunrise is coming son. On the other hand, a full moon high in the sky would reassure you that you have plenty of time for more sleep--the full moon is highest around midnight.

  3. Lunar Eclipses

    Observing a lunar eclipse (which — because it can be seen over a much wider area — is much more easily seen than a solar eclipse) is a sage and enjoyable family activity. upcoming eclipses are listed in astronomy magazines such as Sky & Telescope and Astronomy, as well as in the Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar that comes with membership in the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. No special precautions need to be taken in viewing such an eclipse, and it's fun to organize family, friends, and neighbors when you know such an eclipse is coming.


MOON PHASES AND TIME OF DAY

Phase
Rises
In Eastern Sky
Highest in Sky
In Western Sky
Sets
New
[~sunrise]
[morning]
[noon]
[afternoon]
[~sunset]
Waxing Crescent
[just after sunrise]
[morning]
[just after noon]
[afternoon]
just after sunset
First Quarter
~noon
afternoon
~sunset
night (pm)
~midnight
Waxing Gibbous
afternoon
~sunset
night (pm)
~midnight
night (am)
Full
~sunset
night (pm)
~midnight
night (am)
~sunrise
Waning Gibbous
night (pm)
~midnight
night (am)
~sunrise
morning
Third Quarter
~midnight
night (am)
~sunrise
morning
noon
Waning Crescent
just before sunrise
[morning]
[just before noon]
[afternoon]
[just before
sunset]

Times in brackets [] indicate that the Moon can't be seen because it's too close to the Sun on the sky.

A Moon Kit

A kit of slides and information about the Moon has been released by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. The 18 slides in the kit show many different aspects of the Moon, including close-ups of dramatic craters, lava tubes, and mountains, as well as a map of the farside of the Moon and photos from the Apollo 11 landing. The slides are accompanied by a 24-page book with detailed captions, background information, projects, activities, and an introductory reading list. Among the topics covered in the book are explanations of the names full moons and a descriptions on what it's like on the lunar surface. The booklet also has tables of the automated and manned lunar probes. (Some of the material in this newsletter is adapted from this kit.)

Click here to order the Moon Kit from the ASP's AstroShop.

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