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There’s More to the Moon Than Meets the Eye!

3 weeks ago

How amazing is it to look up at the Moon through a telescope – or just gaze at it from your window when it’s full? The Moon has been a source of wonder for generations, from Galileo pointing out the craters and mountains on the surface to the first lunar landing in 1969… not to mention how it’s featured in classic and modern science fiction movies.

Here are some fascinating Moon facts for you to share with your class to show them there’s more to the Moon than meets the eye – plus a fun model for them to make at home!

7 Facts to Moon Over…

1. A lunar eclipse happens approximately 1.5 times a year…

During a full moon, the Earth, Sun and Moon will align, which is also referred to by its astronomical term ‘syzygy’ (Greek for ‘paired together’). At this time, when the Earth passes between the Sun and the Moon, it results in a ‘lunar eclipse’. At the beginning and end of the eclipse, the shadow you see shows the curve of the Earth (or the ‘penumbra’) and when the Moon is entirely hidden as it travels through the Earth’s shadow, this is called the ‘umbra’. The eclipse happens because the Moon gets its light from the Sun. Therefore, when the Earth passes between them, the light is temporarily blocked out and shrouds the Moon in darkness as the Sun casts the Earth’s shadow on the Moon’s surface.

2. There are 8 different phases of the Moon…

Each lunar month (27.3 days) the Moon orbits the Earth from approximately 382,400 kilometers away as a natural satellite. During this time, we witness 8 different phases of the Moon. Just like the amount of sunlight that illuminated the Moon during the lunar eclipse, these phases of the Moon happen due to the angle of the Sun to the Moon from our perspective on Earth. The phases are: New Moon, Waxing Crescent, First Quarter, Waxing Gibbous, Full Moon, Waning Gibbous, Last Quarter, Waning Crescent… then back to a New Moon and a new month.

3. The Moon is the result of a rock colliding with the Earth billions of years ago…

That’s the scientific theory. Approximately 4.5 billion years ago, a rock that resembled the size of Mars (just over ½ the size of the Earth) collided with our planet and the Moon is what is left over from the debris. After 100 million years, the molten state and magma oceans on the Moon’s surface cooled and crystallised – even with temperatures that range from 127°C to -153°C. Now, after even longer (billions of years) and after many collisions from asteroids and comets, the Moon’s surface has been covered in grounded rock and powder called the ‘lunar regolith’. However, inside the Moon’s mantle is a liquid iron core and the Moon’s magnetic field that once baffled scientists is thought to be the result of the motion caused by the mantle and the core rotating on different axes.

4. The Moon causes different types of tides depending on its phase…

There are two high-tides and two low-tides that happen each day and these change in size throughout the course of a lunar month. The Earth experiences two tides a day because the gravity from both the Sun and the Moon pull water across the Earth’s surface on the side that faces the Moon, while the second tide is due to the motion from the Earth spinning on its axis. When the Moon and the Sun are aligned, we see a New or Full Moon, which makes the Moon’s gravitational pull stronger.

5. You’d weigh a lot less on the Moon than you do on Earth…

The Earth and the Moon are noticeably different in size, with the Moon’s 2,159 mile diameter, which is approximately ¼ of Earth’s diameter. The Moon also weighs 80 times less and is 40% less dense than Earth. Due to the difference in size and mass, the Moon has a weaker gravitational pull compared to Earth. This is why you would weigh about ⅙ of your ‘Earth weight’ if you walked on the Moon… making you bounce up and down like the astronauts from Apollo 11.

6. There is no “dark side of the moon”…

This is a myth! While we only see 60% of the Moon’s surface from the Earth (also known as the ‘near side’) this doesn’t mean it’s dark. The Moon is illuminated by the Sun from both sides, however; we only see one side of the Moon from Earth. Why? The time it takes for the Moon to rotate on its axis is the same time it takes to orbit the Earth – so we never see the ‘far side’ of the Moon because the Earth and the Moon are so in-sync with each other’s movements! It can only be observed during space travel.

7. The Moon is moving further away from the Earth each year…

The Moon is moving about 3.8 cm away from the Earth every year… which means it will gradually take more time to orbit the Earth. At this rate, in 50 billion years, the lunar month will be extended to 47 days long! If the Moon were to move further away or completely disappear, this would affect the world’s ecosystems that rely on tides to provide their nutrients and darkness for predators to hunt their prey for survival. Without the Moon, the Earth’s axis will be destabilised too. Due to the Earth’s axis 23.5 degree tilt that is held in place by the Moon’s gravity, seasons would change that could lead to severe weather patterns… or even Ice Age conditions.

Project: Make-Your-Own Earth and Moon

What you’ll need:

2x different sized spheres (styrofoam, Papier-mâché, plastic or rubber balls!)
2x sticks (wooden rods or pencils will work)
Paint or marker pens (to make your spheres look more like the Earth and the Moon)
1x base (made from wood or cardboard that your spheres can stand on)
Glue, Blu Tack, plasticine (to secure the sticks/ rods to the base)

How to make your model:

1. Firstly, make or choose your smaller sphere so that is ¼ the size of the larger sphere. This is so that your Earth and Moon models are to scale.

2. Decorate the spheres with the paint and marker pens. For the larger Earth sphere, look at a globe to trace the shapes of the continents and colour with greens and browns for the land, and blue for the oceans. For the Moon, use grey colours and you can add dents in the surface to replicate the craters.

3. Once your spheres have been left to dry, place each one on a stick.

4. Next, you’ll need to measure the distance on your base to find out how far you need to place the spheres apart. The Moon can be up to approximately 252,088 miles away from the Earth, which is nearly the diameter of 32 Earths put together. This means, to calculate the maximum distance to scale, you’ll need to measure the diameter of your Earth sphere and multiply the diameter by 32. E.g. If the diameter of the sphere is 10 cm, multiply this by 32 = 320 cm. Measure 320 cm from where you place your Earth sphere to position your Moon sphere.

5. Then, attach the sticks or rods to the base once you have marked the distance between your Earth and Moon sphere to scale with a ruler on the base.

Now your Earth and Moon model is finished, why not recreate a lunar eclipse? Simply shine the torch directly in front of the Earth sphere and you’ll see the Moon sphere is hidden in the Earth’s shadow.

Get more FREE Science Experiments at Empiribox @ Home

Register your school at Empiribox @ Home to share a lesson with your pupils about the Earth’s Moon and its phases.

To help prevent education gaps during COVID-19 and to make remote learning as fun as possible, we want to support teachers (and parents too!) with Empiribox @ Home. This includes access to a free library of KS1 and KS2 curriculum-aligned science resources for their students – including interactive videos, worksheets, quizzes, adapted hands-on experiments and more! – all while they learn from home or back in the classroom.

Discover more get FREE access to Empiribox @ Home here.

From all of us at Empiribox, we hope this helps teachers, students and parents to stay safe and engaged during these unique times.