Sky's Up - Fall 2015 - Page 22

the STEM zone Name: ___________________________________________________________________ By Mike Reynolds Lunar Phase Observations Form Understanding ‘The Moon in Our Sky’ T he Moon is our closest celestial neighbor. It changes shape, sometimes it is in the evening sky, sometimes the morning sky, and sometimes it seems we cannot see it at all. The purpose of “The Moon in Our Sky” activity is for students to individually observe the Moon over a period of time to better understand its phases, position in the sky and movement. The number of times or period of observation is up to you – and the weather. At a minimum, students should track over a two week period, from new moon to full moon. That way they will get an opportunity to see how the shape of the moon – the phase – changes night to night. And they should also note how the position of the moon changes night-to-night, as the Moon orbits Earth. There are a number of excellent phases of the moon videos on YouTube. You should select one that is appropriate for your students. One I wrote that might be a little too-high level for some age groups can be found here on YouTube. The United States Naval Observatory has an excellent website that includes specific Sun and Moon data for one day. This will show you specifics like moonrise and moonset times as well as the Moon’s phase for your location for any date you choose. Students can keep a log of their observations over a period of time. That way they can record the changes and compare these in their observing logs. It does not take a telescope, all they are recording is the shape of the Moon, and some other data that astronomers would include like the date and time. Why is this type of observation important? First, it gets students thinking like a scientist: Making observations and recording data. Second, students can see the changes and a little better understand why we see these changes. ooo In addition to being a longtime STEM advocate, Dr. Mike Reynolds is a dean and professor of astronomy and physics at Florida State College and a recognized expert on meteoritics. He participated in NASA’s Teachers in Space P rogram and has served as executive director of the Chabot Space & Science Center. 22 Date and Time Place where you observed the Moon Sky conditions: was it clear, a little cloudy, a lot cloudy, or… The Moon’s shape COURTESY OF NASA/BILL DUNFORD This NASA graphic aims to explain why the Moon goes through phases for Earth-bound viewers. The center ring shows the Moon as it revolves around the Earth, as seen from above the north pole. Although sunlight illuminates half the Earth and half the moon at all times, the moon’s orbit around the Earth affects how much of that sunlit part we can see. The outer ring shows what we see on the Earth during each corresponding part of the Moon’s orbit. QUESTIONS AND FOLLOW-UP The following are some questions and follow-ups you may use with your class after the lunar observation sessions/forms are complete. This can take the form of a class discussion or as questions to be answered verbally or on paper by individual students. 1. How did the Moon appear to change night-to-night? 2. What was the youngest (thinnest crescent) you saw? 3. Was there anything near the Moon, like a bright star or planet? 4. Where in the sky was the 1st quarter moon when you observed it? 5. Where in the sky was the full moon when you observed it? 6. What were your problems (difficulties, challenges) in observing the Moon? 7. What did you learn from this? Sky’s Up Instructions: Date & Time: Fill in the date and time, making sure to indicate AM or PM Location: Note where you made the observations Conditions: Note weather conditions at the time of your observation Moon’s Shape: Using a pencil carefully shade the portion of the Moon that you do not see in the provided circle 1 Sky’s Up 23