The Moon: Phases, Eclipses, & Motions

Bruce Zeller
New Rochelle High School, Westchester

Summer Research Program for Science Teachers
August 2011

Aim: How is the Moon’s motion around the Earth related to the Moon’s phases and eclipses?  Why can we see only one side of the Moon called the near side? Why does the Moon rise 50 minutes later each day?

Duration: 50 Minutes




1. Demonstration of why we see only 1 side of the Moon. Teacher is the Earth and student is the Moon. Student walks around the teacher but faces the same direction for the entire trip. We see each of side of the student. Student walks around teacher but also rotates during this trip. We see only 1 side of the student. This is evidence that the Moon rotates and revolves around the Earth at the same rate.

2. Show them images with power point slides of the phases of the Moon from New Moon back to New Moon. Explain terminology such as waning, waxing, terminator and syzygy Use the Scidome projector to illustrate each one of the phases. Use Starry Night software, lesson A4.1. Each student will have a work sheet and it will be done as a class activity.

3. Show them images with power point slides of the configuration needed for eclipses, both solar and lunar. Use the Scidome projector to illustrate both these types of eclipses. Use the Starry Night software to, lesson A5.1. Each student will have a work sheet and this will be done as a class activity.

4. Demonstration of why the Moon rises 50 minutes later each day. Teacher is Earth and student is Moon. Teacher rotates 360 degrees which represent 1 day while the Moon revolved 13 degrees in its orbit during the Earth’s rotation. Earth has to rotate and extra 13 degrees to catch up to the Moon. The Earth rotates 15 degrees per hour or 13 degrees in 50 minutes.

Vocabulary Review:

  1. Waning
  2. Waxing
  3. Terminator
  4. Syzygy
  5. Crescent
  6. Quarter
  7. Gibbous
  8. Node


For the next 29 days go outside and record the phase of the Moon. Make a sketch being careful to shade in the appropriate side. The dark side should be represented by shading in that side with pencil. The side that is illuminated should be left alone.


National Science Standards

Content Standard A: Science as Inquiry

Content Standard B: Physical Science

Content Standard D: Earth and Space Science

Content Standard E:  Science and Technology

Content Standard F:  Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

Content Standard G: History and Nature of Science

The Phase of the Moon    Standard A, a, b

                                       Standard D, h

                                       Standard E, b

                                       Standard G, i,j,k

Eclipses                           Standard A, a,b

                                       Standard B, d,e

                                       Standard D, f,g,h

                                       Standard E, b,c

                                       Standard G, i,j,k

New York Curriculum High School

Standard 4

Key Idea 1

Performance Indicator 1

Topic:   Moon Phases      1.1a, 1.1b, 1.1f, 1.1i

             Eclipses               1.1a, 1.1b