Phases of the Moon
Vocabulary: axis, crescent, First Quarter, Full Moon, gibbous, illuminate, Moon phase, New Moon, orbit, revolve, rotate, Third Quarter, waning, waxing
Prior Knowledge Questions (Do these BEFORE using the Gizmo.)
[Note: The purpose of these questions is to activate prior knowledge and get students thinking. Students are not expected to know the answers to the Prior Knowledge Questions.]
Answers will vary. Here are some examples:
The Moon goes around Earth. [Counterclockwise]
The path that the Moon takes is called its orbit. The Moon is revolving around Earth.
Earth is spinning. [Counterclockwise. Earth also is orbiting the Sun, but that is not shown.]
This motion is called rotation. Earth rotates on its axis, a straight line connecting the North Pole to the South Pole.
You would have to be in space. [The perspective is from directly over the North Pole.]
Get the Gizmo ready:
Click Reset ().
Question: Why do we see phases of the Moon?
Answers will vary
At first the Moon is dark. Then the Moon is a thin sliver [crescent]. Then half of the Moon is lit up. Then most of the Moon is lit up. Then the Moon is full. After that the Moon is mostly lit up, then half lit up, then a thin sliver, and finally completely dark again.
No. As the Moon orbits Earth, we see more and more of the illuminated side of the Moon until Full Moon is reached. We then see less and less of the illuminated side of the Moon until it goes back to the New Moon phase.
Moon phases are caused by two factors:
Name that phase!
Get the Gizmo ready:
Goals: Learn the names of Moon phases and when they occur.
If the right side is illuminated, it is waxing. If the left side is illuminated, it is waning. [As you move from the North Pole to the Equator, the Moon will appear to “tilt” more and more. From the Southern hemisphere the left-right directions are reversed.]
The Man in the Moon
Get the Gizmo ready:
Turn on Show flag.
Question: If you look closely at the Full Moon, you may notice dark areas that look a bit like a face. This is known as “The Man in the Moon.” Does this side of the Moon always face Earth?
Answers will vary but the correct answer is yes
Yes, we always see the same side of the Moon. The Moon flag always points toward Earth.
The Moon takes about 29.5 days to go around Earth. [Actually, it takes the Moon just over 27 days to revolve a full 360°. But Earth is also moving around the Sun in this time, so the Moon has to “catch up” for two days to get back to its original position.]
The Moon also takes about 29.5 days to rotate once. [Again, in reality it takes just over 27 days, but because of Earth’s motion around the Sun it takes two extra days for the Moon to return to its original orientation relative to the Earth and Sun.]
It takes the same time for the Moon to rotate as it takes to revolve around Earth. [This explains why we always see the same side of the Moon from Earth.]
We would see all sides of the Moon every day. [The Moon would rotate 180 degrees in 12 hours, allowing an observer to see the front and back of the Moon in that time period.]
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