Moon Watching

Watching the moon can be fun, especially during the winter when it appears higher in the sky than at any other time of year. Here are some things to look for or to do.


1. Watch the moon go through a complete cycle, from new moon to new moon or from full moon to full moon. Make a sketch each day or night of what the moon looked like and label it with the time you saw the moon and what direction you were looking in when you saw it. If you start at new moon, how many days go by before you see the moon? Where was the sun each time you saw the moon? Miss a day or night due to weather? Visit Virtual Reality Moon Phase Pictures and see what you missed or even what phase the moon was in on the day you were born. The Moon's Phase also lets you look up the phase of the moon for different dates.

2. Find the moon in the sky. Look at it again one half hour later. Notice how much it has seemed to move because of the spin (rotation) of the earth.

3. Look at the moon with binoculars several nights in a row when it is not full or new. The line where the lighted part of the moon meets the unlighted part is called the terminator. See if you can notice how it changes position on the face of the moon. Notice how shadows at the terminator help show mountains and craters. Use the shadows at the terminator to see different moon objects on different nights. Visit the Lunar Orbiter Database for incredible photographs of moon features.

4. Notice where the moon is at night, in what constellation it is seen. Over several nights of observing do you see it pass in front of a bright star or planet or at least move to another constellation? 

5. Look at a map of the moon. Use binoculars to find as many of the features shown on the map as possible on the real moon. Inconstant Moon has "multimedia tours of the moon," illustrating moon features you can observe on the date you select.

6. Visit some websites such as the moon page of the "Nine Planets" website, and Bill Arnett's The Moon for some interesting links to science and literature abut the moon. 

7. Make a model of how moon craters were formed. Put some flour in a cake pan. Drop a marble, a golf ball, or some other small heavy object into the flour from a couple of feet above the pan. Do the marks left in the flour look like craters?

8. Hold a ball in one hand in front of you and stand near a bright light. Face the light and turn your body slowly so your right shoulder comes towards the light. Make sure you keep your arm out in front of you so the ball stays in front of you. Notice how the light shining on the ball changes just like the moon going through its phases. If the light is a model of the sun and the ball is a model of the moon, what is your head? Can you do an eclipse of the sun? Can you do an eclipse of the moon? The Lunar Phases has good animations that show why the moon has phases.

9. The Lunar Eclipse Computer will tell you the exact time of any eclipse which can be seen from where you live.

10. Visit NOVA's website To The Moon about the Apollo missions which placed an astronaut on the surface of the moon. It has images, puzzlers and more. We Choose The Moon celebrates the 40-year anniversary of the first landing on the moon with many wonderful resources.

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