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Science Lab
Moon Watching

Planetary astronomer Heidi Hammel studies the sky with powerful tools like the Hubble Space Telescope. You can be an astronomer and study the sky, too, and you don't even need a telescope!

In this activity, you will observe the Moon and note the changes that occur throughout one month. Each night you Moon watch, you'll make a simple sketch of what the Moon looks like and take some notes about what you see. Soon you'll be able to make predictions about when the phases of the Moon will occur and what they will look like.

What You Need
Moon Watching Tips
What You Do
1. Print this activity.

Print this page, the Lunar Calendar, and your Moon Journal. Put the printouts in a folder.

2. Start Moon watching.

To get the best view of the Moon, go outside. Bring your folder, drawing materials, flashlight, and binoculars if you have them. You should also bring an adult for safety.

3. Observe at the same time each night.

A real scientist will do an experiment in a controlled way—at the same time, in the same place, with the same tools, etc. As a scientist-in-training, you should make sure you observe the Moon at the same time and from the same spot each night. Try to observe the Moon every night or every few nights. Try not to go longer than three days without Moon watching, but do the best you can.

4. Sketch the Moon.

Make a sketch of the Moon in the Lunar Calendar to record what you see.

5. Analyze your data.

During the month, write your observations in your Moon Journal. Look for patterns, like when the Moon gets bigger or smaller, and try to make predictions about the length of each Moon phase.

6. Finish your Lunar Calendar.

If you can't collect data for a full month, try doing it for just two weeks. You'll still be able to see some changes and then you can try again next month.


moon phase info
Phases of the Moon Are You Wondering?

The phases of the Moon are caused by the positions of the Earth, Sun, and Moon in relation to each other. On average, the Moon goes around Earth in 29.5 days. This period of time is called a lunar (or Moon) month.

While it looks like the shape of the Moon changes, the whole Moon is always there. You can't always see all of it because as the Moon orbits Earth, the Sun lights up only parts of the Moon that are visible from the Earth, and sometimes none of it at all. These changes are called the phases of the Moon.