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Moon Phases and Eclipses

Suggested Grade Level(s): Middle School Estimated class time: one class period

Summary
An essential factor in the understanding of the gravitational bending of light was the discovery that the gravity of the sun s mass could cause a distant star to appear as if it was actually in a different location! Einstein predicted that the light from a far away star would be bent" but it could only be seen during a solar eclipse when the light of the sun between Earth and the distant star did not blind the observer! #n this activity you will create a solar eclipse" a lunar eclipse" and learn more about why the moon appears differently from one night to the ne$t!

Objectives
• • Students will demonstrate both a solar and lunar eclipse and e$plain the differences and similarities of both! Students will e$plain why a solar eclipse was used to demonstrate that e$treme gravity can bend light!

National Standards
National Science Standards • %S!&'(!) S*#E%*E AS #%+,#-. As a result of activities in grades &'(" all students should develop'' o Abilities necessary to do scientific in/uiry o ,nderstandings about scientific in/uiry • %S!&'(!0 EA-12 A%3 S4A*E S*#E%*E As a result of their activities in grades &'(" all students should develop an understanding o Structure of the earth system o Earth in the solar system

Knowledge Prerequisite
• • Students should be familiar with the concepts of the sun'earth'moon system and should also be aware that other stars e$ist far beyond our solar system! Students should have read the )5)5 *osmic 1imes articles about Einstein s predictions!

*osmic 1imes )5)5 )

Moon 4hases and Eclipses

Moon 4hases and Eclipses .Materials • • • • • • • • 4hotographs or slides which show the real moon in several different phases (e!g! the image at http:66www!astrosurf!com6cidadao6/c7lunation!8pg available on http:66www!astrosurf!com6cidadao6animations!htm) 4lastic foam ball about the si9e of a grapefruit (to be the moon) 4encil or short dowel rod about the si9e of a pencil A bright light such as a lamp without the shade (to be the sun) A very small" dim light such as those found on a :eychain (to be the distant star) 4aper and a pencil to record what you observe A very dar: room A camera to photograph a panorama of your hori9on Procedure: I. Explanation -emind the students that when scientists do research" they try to follow an e$perimental plan" which can be repeated by other researchers in their own laboratories! 1ell them they will all try to complete the same procedure to see if they can find an e$planation for the phases of the moon! Set up the light (turned off) in a position so that you can stand about . Engagement As: the students to draw a picture of the moon showing the way it loo:ed the last time they remember seeing it! 1his will probably produce several different views! Show the students the photographs of the moon phases in no particular order and as: them to write why they thin: the moon loo:s different at different times! Allow the students to share their thoughts with the class! A very common misconception is that the shadow of the earth causes the moon phases! 3on t contradict that thought" but do draw a picture on the board which shows the Earth" its shadow" and the moon in various positions on its trip around the earth! II. meters in front of it< have enough room to hold your arm out straight in front of you and be able to rotate in a full =>?'degree circle! 4ush the pencil into the foam ball so that it ma:es a little stem handle to hold the ball up enough to :eep your fingers out of the ball s shadow! 4lace the smaller light on the opposite side of the lamp from you and high enough so that it appears to you to be about )cm above the lamp bulb! %ow turn the bright bulb on! *osmic 1imes )5)5 . Exploration E$plain that the ball will represent the moon and the lamp will be the sun! 1heir eyes will be an observer from earth! Allow them to e$periment with the ball and lamp to recreate the condition they drew in the first activity! 1hen as: them to reproduce at least two other conditions similar to the images you showed them in the photographs! III.

S stage" the 12#-3 +.ou may need to hold the ball up above your head a little for the light to actually shine on the ball! #f you lower the moon ball until your own shadow covers it" you ha(e reated a L3*AR ECLIPSE$ This ha%%ens #hen the moon is in the Earth’s shado#$ -aise and lower the moon a few times to be sure that you understand the @ull moon stage and the lunar eclipse$ *oti e that your body 7the earth8 asts a mu h larger shado# than the earth did$ The moon an mo(e a ross the s!y &or a longer time #hile still remaining in the earth shado# and e(erybody on the nighttime side o& the earth an see the e li%se$ 3n&ortunately Einstein ould not use a lunar e li%se to test his theory$ +hy not? 798 Thin! about the di&&eren e bet#een the mass o& the moon and o& the sun$ *ontinue turning until you pass through the AA%#%G G#BBC.E*L#4SE can you see the smaller" dimmer light from beyond the sun! -epeat the e$periment" but draw a picture of the moon in each of its phases! *osmic 1imes )5)5 = Moon 4hases and Eclipses .I*/ CRESCE*T and o urs about 0 days a&ter the ne# moon stage$ *ontinue to turn to your left until half of the moon ball facing you is lit and half is dar:! This stage is alled the 1IRST 23ARTER moon be ause you an see only hal& o& the hal& or a 4uarter o& the moon$ *ontinue turning to your left until almost" but not all" of the visible moon is lighted! This 5&at6 stage o& the moon is alled the +A.Stand facing the bright light holding your moon ball straight out in front of you! .) This is alled the *E+ .E*L#4SE! Cnly during the SCLA.OO* stage$ .I*/ /I''O3S$ @inally continue turning to the left until all of the lighted side of the moon is visible! This #e !no# is the 13LL .A-1E-" the AA%#%G *-ES*E%1" and finally bac: to the %EA MCC% S1AGE! Ahile facing the bright lamp" practice raising and lowering the moon a few times to simulate the SCLA.OO* stage and a solar e li%se an only o ur at this %hase$ -oes the shado# o& the moon ball o(er all o& your &a e? (=) Astronomers needed to &ind a solar e li%se o urring in a %la e #here %eo%le ould reasonably (isit and he needed a lear day to obser(e the s!y &or the &e# minutes the moon shado# blo !ed the bright sun$ A (ery rare e(ent indeed! Slowly turn to your left 8ust enough so that a little sliver of light appears along the edge of your moon ball! This stage o& the moon y le is alled the +A.our eyes are an observer on earth loo:ing at the sun! Very bright isn’t it? Can you see detail on the moon ball? Can you see the little distant starlight? ()) %ow slowly raise the moon ball until its shadow falls across your face! This is a SOLAR ECLIPSE! The sunlight is blo !ed the moon" #hi h is lo ated bet#een the sun and the earth$ In this e li%sed %osition" an you no# see the smaller light %ea!ing &rom behind the lam%? 'e&ore" the lam%light totally o(er%o#ered the smaller light" but no# your eye or teles o%e an see it$ )o#e(er" an you see any o& the lighted side o& the moon? (.

sing the date for the moon phase when you are doing this activity" as: the students to predict the moon s appearance on several upcoming dates! @or instance" if the full moon was on Dan! =" what would the moon loo: li:e on Dan! )5 or .&E .! %o" because it is facing away from you! =! 4robably not" because the ball is small and does not cast a large shadow! 1he real moon is also small and does not cast a very large shadow on the earth! 1he chance of a solar eclipse occurring at any given spot on the earth is fairly rare! 1he rotation of the earth also means that the moon shadow does not stay in one place more than a few minutes! 0! Light from a distant star passing close by our very small moon would not be deflected enough to measure because the mass of the moon is so little! 1he mass of the sun was large enough to cause a deflection" although very small! &! -emind the students that this activity creates a model of the earth' moon'sun system! Models often help us to understand a concept better" but they come with a danger of creating a mindset that may not actually represent what is real! 1he lamp in this model does %C1 affect the light from the tiny laser beam! *osmic 1imes )5)5 0 Moon 4hases and Eclipses .%ow have students write a short paragraph to e$plain why astronomers needed to have a solar eclipse in order to see the apparent displacement of a distant star because the mass of our sun bent the light coming from it IV. Extensionand Evaluation .ou can also as: the students to predict the date of a future phase" for instance" FAhen should we e$pect the ne$t wa$ing crescent if today is the full moonEG 3o these predictions as an in'class activity! #f you begin your space unit with the moon" you can have the students :eep a moon log for the remainder of your unit in space or for at least one month! Many resourceful students will find web pages" which will show the moon phase for a particular date! 1hey can produce a complete moon log for the month" regardless of the weather" in one sitting at their computer! .ou can use the computer data to see if it matches their predictions" but encourage them to actually loo: at the s:y! #f they do their logs at the same time of evening each day" they will reali9e that not only the phase of the moon changes" but also its position in the s:y! #f the students have access to a digital camera" they can ma:e a photograph of the panoramic hori9on at their home and then 3-AA the moon on successive nights at the same time! eacher Notes )! 1he sunlight is very bright because it would be daylight for your observer" possibly close to noon! 1he moon is not very visible and you can t see the little light at all because the brightness of the lamp overpowers everything! .