Science Challenge: Phases of the Moon and Lunar Eclipse

Science Challenge: Phases of the Moon and Lunar Eclipse

Did you see the lunar eclipse of the full supermoon on September 27-28?  A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth’s shadow falls on the moon.  This happens when the sun, earth, and moon align in space, with the earth in the middle. (A solar eclipse occurs when the moon is in the middle and blocks the sun’s light.)  A supermoon is a new or full moon that occurs when the moon is at perigee, the moon’s closest point to earth in its monthly orbit. A full supermoon appears larger than other full moons. The three celestial events (full moon, supermoon, and lunar eclipse) will not coincide for another 18 years.

This demonstration will allow you to see for yourself how a lunar eclipse works. Try your hand at a solar eclipse as well. And if you want to keep exploring, you can see how the phases of the moon (new, crescent, half, full, to name a few) occur each month as the moon revolves around earth.

Materials

  • Flashlight (to represent the sun)
  • Orange or ball of similar size (to represent the earth)
  • Ping pong ball or ball of similar size (to represent the moon)

Procedure

For the lunar eclipse, place the flashlight and “earth” on the table. Watch the “moon” as it comes around the “night” side of earth (the side away from the “sun”) and into place opposite the sun, with the earth in between. You should see a shadow start to fall on the moon and then completely cover it.

For the solar eclipse, place the flashlight and “earth” on the table. Watch the flashlight as the “moon” comes around the “day” side of earth (the side facing the “sun”) and into place between the sun and earth. The moon should completely block the sun’s light from earth.

Resources
Science in Schools
Teacher Vision
We-Made-That.com
Lake Afton Public Observatory