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Moon Experiments for Kids

Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

In this experiment you'll be learning about how the phases of the moon influences our view of the night sky. You'll be counting how many stars you can observe during each phase of the lunar cycle.

Introduction

Star gazing can be a relaxing activity for everyone. Best of all, it's free, and all you need is to walk outside at night to see a beautiful display of lights in the sky. But, what day of the month you go outside can affect how many stars you see.

During the month, the moon is in different phases. Phases of the moon are the different shapes that are lit up by the Sun. The transitions between these phases are called the lunar cycle. Although the moon changes all month, there are four main phases - the new moon where you can't see the moon at all, first quarter, where the moon gets bigger, full moon, where the moon is a full circle, and the last quarter, where the moon gets smaller.

Position of the moon and the four main phases of the lunar cycle
moon phases

To learn more about the lunar cycle and different lunar phases, you can read this lesson: Why Does the Moon Have Phases.

So, how can we know what days will be best for star gazing? To answer this question, we're going to count how many stars are visible during the four main phases of the moon.

Research Question: How does the lunar cycle affect how many stars we see in the sky?
Age: Elementary school
Time to Complete: About one month
Safety Concerns: It can be dangerous to walk alone at night. Always make sure an adult comes with you to view the stars and use a flashlight.
Independent Variable: Phase of the moon
Dependent Variable: Number of stars viewed
Controlled variables:
Location of viewing, viewing area, time of observation

Materials

  • Cardboard tube for viewing
  • Lunar calendar
  • Flashlight
  • Data table:

Date Lunar Phase Number of Stars Viewed Observations
New moon
First quarter
Full moon
Last quarter

Steps

1. Use the lunar calendar to figure out when the new moon is to start your experiment and pick a time at night to observe the stars each day with your parent.

2. When you're ready to observe the stars, grab your data table and your parent to choose a location to make your observations. Always observe the stars in the same location.

Safety Concern!! Never go out at night alone. Always bring a parent with you and make sure you have a flashlight to help you see.

3. When you're at the location, get your paper towel tube ready and turn off your flashlight. Looking through the tube will help you observe the same amount of sky each night. Count how many stars you see through your tube and record it in your data table.

4. Next, record any observations that might affect how many stars you count. If it's cloudy, you might not be able to see as many stars. Make sure you write down how clear the sky is.

5. Repeat step 2-4 for each of the four main phases of the lunar cycle.

Troubleshooting

Cloudy skies can affect your results. If the night you are supposed to observe isn't clear, try the next night. Just make sure you note that in your observations. If you live in an area with a lot of light, like a city, it might be harder to see the stars. Try going to a park or somewhere else with less light with your parent.

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