Over the Holidays I had my whole family here. I think I have mentioned before I came from a family of Science teachers. My father was a Chemistry Professor before he retired last year and my sister teaches Biology to High School kids. So since they both were here I thought I would have them help me with this fun Moon Phases Experiment.
I have to admit that when I first thought of this experiment I thought the Moon phases were caused by the shadow of the earth on the moon, which is a pretty common misconception. However my dad was quick to point out my error and show us all how the Moon Phases actually come from the Sun’s reflection on the Moon. This experiment is a great way to show this.
We found that the larger the Styrofoam ball we used the better for this experiment. Since the balls are porous some lite can shine through the smaller ones and make it harder to see the shadows. We also had an issue with the light bouncing off the wall behind us so we used black paper to act as Space to help prevent that from happening.
What is happening with this experiment? For this experiment the Camera is the Earth, our Flashlight is the Sun, and the ball on the stick is the moon. The kids will learn that the Moon Phases come from the reflection of the sun’s light not the shadow of the Earth. You will also see that for a Full Moon the Sun is behind the Earth and the Moon is in front, while for a New Moon the Moon is between the Earth and the Sun.
Don’t forget to check out our other Science Experiments HERE!
Black Tissue Paper
Cooking Skewer (or small wooden dowel)
To show the full moon shine the Sun (your flashlight) directly onto your moon.
Note: that the Sun and the Earth are in about the same position here. Which is why we see the Full moon reflecting the Sun’s Light.
Move your Moon around the Sun a little to show another phase of the moon.
Notice how part of the Moon is now in shadow. Continue moving the Moon around the Sun to show how the positioning causes part of the moon to be in shadow.
And here you can only see a small sliver of the moon.
The next phase will have the Sun in the direct opposite position of the Earth and the moon will be totally cast in shadow, this last phase is called the New Moon.