Observe the moon
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Observe the Moon. Activities for Clear and Cloudy Nights. Clear night. Have people look at the moon with eyes alone and sketch moon with pencil

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Observe the Moon

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Observe the moon

Observe the Moon

Activities for Clear and Cloudy Nights

Clear night

Clear night

  • Have people look at the moon with eyes alone and sketch moon with pencil

  • Compare image of moon in telescope with sketch (discuss how image changes with type of telescope - the Galileoscope will invert image top/bottom & left/right)

  • Ask people to predict how many fingers at arms length it will take to cover the moon. (about half a finger - half a degree).

  • Count how many fists it takes to go all the way around one time (three sixty degrees). Is about 8 to 10 degrees per fist.

General observing tips

General Observing Tips

  • It takes about 20 minutes to get good night vision

  • Red lights preserve night vision (e.g. red cellophane over a flashlight) or red led rope lights

Scheduling moon observing

Scheduling Moon Observing

  • Is often best to try to schedule moon observing near 1st quarter phase because the Moon is high in the sky by sunset.

  • Full moon rises at sunset so can be behind trees and buildings when trying to observe early in evening



  • Needs good tripod - one user recommended a Sunpak 2001

  • Slide eyepiece tube in and out for focus (not the lens part - the tube)

  • For Moon or planets - focus by pulling out

  • For stars - focus by pushing in.

  • Default is 25x magnification - use Barlow for more

  • Better instructions for construction on their website (galileoscope.org)



  • Tycho crater near bottom of moon - great to point out if observing near full moon.

  • Features near terminator line stand out more distinctly due to shadow.

Maria are the dark areas

Maria are the dark areas


Highlands are

the light areas

Image source: http://www.nowpublic.com/tech-biz/names-lunar-maria



  • Furrows or ridges or trenches


Observing help

Observing Help

  • http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/objects/moon/

  • Galileo’s Classroom Chapters 2 and 3. http://www.uwyo.edu/caper/info.asp?p=16091

  • Galileoscope site. https://www.galileoscope.org/gs/content/galileos-classroom

Maps of features 1st q

Maps of features 1st Q

  • http://www.amlunsoc.org/lunar_maps.htm

Moon map with major maria labeled

Moon map with major maria labeled



  • Venus is up in West after sunset in Sept 2010. But not for very long. You should be able to see the phase of Venus (just like phases of the Moon) with your Galileoscope if you can get a good focus and don’t have a lot of pollution in your Western Sky.

  • Nice animation of phases of Venus (http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap060110.html)

Observe the moon


  • Also visible in the Western sky - but pretty dim



  • Rises in East - shortly after sunset

  • Can see Galilean Moons with Galileoscope (they look like little stars)

  • Use Stellarium to identify which moon is which.

  • Also up before dawn in the Western sky.

Observe the moon1

Observe the Moon

Activities for Clear and Cloudy Nights

Cloudy night

Cloudy Night

  • Try some lunar mapping activities from http://www.newpaltz.edu/lunarlander/lessons.html (lunar mapping is available on 9-12 or 5-8 side)

  • Show Apollo 11 40th anniversary video (http://www.nasa.gov/externalflash/apollo11_40/)

  • Show front and back side of moon (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0to1xZKcOgg&feature=PlayList&p=707BEDEA8886E51A&index=21 )

Lunar phase activity

Lunar Phase - Activity

  • Get some photos of phases of the Moon and have students put them in the order they think they go. Go with 6 phases. Make them label 1 to 6.

  • Demonstrate phases of the moon - best with white styrofoam balls - but see this eclip to see how you would use a lamp and a ball with a student to show them phases (http://www.archive.org/details/NASA_Science_Earth_Clip42_HD)

  • More movies explaining phases of the Moon http://www.noao.edu/education/phases/phases_demo.html

Lunar exploration future

Lunar Exploration Future

  • Hardshell vs. inflatable and launch costs for supplies in this NASA eclip called Lunar Habitat - Structure (http://www.archive.org/details/Lunar_Habitat-Structure)

  • Have students compare potential sites for a lunar outpost (http://www.lpi.usra.edu/education/explore/LRO/activities/mission_moon/index.shtml )

What if

What If?

  • What if the Moon didn’t exist?

  • http://www.astrosociety.org/education/publications/tnl/33/33.html

  • (warning - this was written with tides misconception uncorrected)

  • Shorter day

  • Windy

  • Ocean tides reduced - may affect life



  • Misconception: Tides are primarily caused by the differential gravitational forces on each side of Earth.

  • Proper conception: Tides are secondarily caused by above and are primarily caused by motion of Earth (and inertia of oceans) around center of mass of Earth-Moon system. (http://www.co-ops.nos.noaa.gov/restles3.html). NOAA refers to this as a centrifugal force caused by the monthly motion of the Earth around the center of mass - but it is better to introduce to beginners in Physics as inertia - or an object in motion, staying in motion in the direction is was going - which distorts the water - due to the monthly motion of the Earth around the common center of mass.



  • Cut them out and put in random order (just pick 6) and put upside down and sideways too.



  • http://www.newpaltz.edu/lunarlander/ - lessons for 5th - 12th grade with extensive teacher instructional material

  • http://ares.jsc.nasa.gov/education/Activities/ExpMoon/ExpMoon.htm

  • Thumbnails of moon maps http://www.lpi.usra.edu/resources/mapcatalog/usgs/

  • Full atlas of moon maps http://www.lpi.usra.edu/resources/mapcatalog/index.shtml

  • Clickable map of moon and craters and features are all labeled. (http://www.lunarrepublic.com/atlas/index.shtml )

  • Videos relating to Lunar Module on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=707BEDEA8886E51A)

  • Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Educator Resources - great images and well documented slide shows (http://lroc.sese.asu.edu/EPO/Educator/teachingaids.php )

  • Lunar - Planetary Institute Educator Resources http://www.lpi.usra.edu/education/resources/s_system/moon.shtml

More resources

More Resources

  • Visual calendar of moon phases (http://www.stardate.org/nightsky/moon )

  • Details of current phase of moon and other earth and moon maps (http://www.fourmilab.ch/earthview/vplanet.html )

  • Lunar elevation maps (http://lunar.gsfc.nasa.gov/lola/ ) A high school lab to explain how laser altimetry works is available too (http://education.gsfc.nasa.gov/experimental/all98invProject.Site/Pages/pingpong.html )

  • Best images of the moon - available in layers with zoom (http://wms.lroc.asu.edu/lroc#damoon )

Sample order for moon

Sample Order for Moon

  • Start a few weeks ahead with predict what moon looks like and order of phases

  • Have students observe moon - see times next page

  • After they have had chance to see moon for themselves and see that it does not always look the same - then start unit.

Observe the moon

  • Need to define day/night - motion of Sun

  • Compare & contrast moon position in sky to sun position in sky

  • Phases of the Moon activity (http://www.learner.org/teacherslab/pup/act_moonphase.html) Emphasize three bodies needed for phases - not simple interaction - geometry. Moon goes around earth such that person holding moon will rotate with left arm first (or rotate Counter-Clockwise as seen from above).

Observe the moon

  • Time of moon rise/moon set -

    • Remove moon. extend model to define noon, midnight, sunrise, sunset. Where is east on ‘face’ of the person who is earth? Where is west?

    • Have second person hold moon in 1st quarter moon phase. Second person (earth) needs to figure out when 1st quarter moon rises. What time is it highest? What time will it set?

    • May help if person who is earth puts hands up as blinders.

    • Also may want to scaffold more for special needs students by making a cardboard card to wear with US map on it that has East and West labeled.

Continue with

Continue with…

  • Seasons

  • Constellations

  • Motions of planets in sky as compared to constellations and moon

  • Location of ecliptic

Performance task

Performance Task

  • What phase of the moon is best for fishing before sunrise (ignoring tides)? Justify your answer with diagrams and models in complete sentences.

Phases rise set

Phases Rise Set

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