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Phases of the Moon

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The Moon is the Earth’s closest neighbor in space. The Moon is the only satellite of Earth. It measures 2,160 miles across, about quarter of the size of the Earth. It circles the Earth at a distance of about 239,000 miles, and makes the journey about once a month. The Moon has no light of its own. It reflects the light from the Sun. The sunlight illuminates different parts of the Moon as the month goes by. This makes the Moon seem to change its shape. The Moon spins around slowly as it circles the Earth, so the same side is always turned toward the Earth. We only see the Moon lit up completely once a month, but you do not have to wait a month to see the changes in the shape and phases of the Moon. The project here will show you in just a few minutes how the Moon goes through its phases!

This picture shows a view of the Moon from the Earth. When the whole Moon is lit up like this, we call it a full Moon. The darker regions on the surface are great, dusty plains called seas, or maria. The lighter areas are highlands. These are pitted with craters that are sometimes hundreds of miles across. Mountains on the Moon rise to more than 18,000 feet.


Soccer or beach ball, glue, glue brush, glass, tinfoil, scissors, reusable adhesive, flashlight.

moon phases


To make a template, draw a petal shape on card and carefully cut it out. The shape should be 12in long and 4 ½in across with a flat bottom edge.
moon phases
Carefully cut the tinfoil into large square sheets. Wrap up the ball in the tinfoil. Try to make sure that the wrapping is as smooth as possible. You now have your own Moon!
moon phases
Place your Moon on a table. Wedge a small ball of reusable adhesive under the ball. This will hold it firm and stop it from rolling off the table.
moon phases
Get your friend to stand at one side of the table to shine a flashlight with a strong beam on your Moon. Go to the opposite side of the table. Look at your Moon with the main lights out.
moon phases
Gradually move around the table, keeping your eyes steadily on the Moon, which is lit up one side by the flashlight. You will see the different shapes it takes. These shapes are the Moon’s phases.


moon phases When you are opposite your friend in the project, the side of the ball facing you is dark. This is what happens once a month in the night sky. We can only see a thin sliver of light, which we call a new or crescent Moon. As you move around the table, more of the ball is lit by the flashlight. All of it will be lit when you are behind your friend. When this happens to the real Moon, we describe it as full. As you continue moving around, the ball gradually fades into darkness. When you are opposite your friend again, you will see a new Moon again.
1st Quater Moon
1st Quarter Phase
Full Moon
Full Moon
Last Quarter Phase
Last Quarter Phase
Cresent Moon
Crescent Moon


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