Space in 3D

I went back to school today at the Wehr Nature Center for volunteer teacher training, and I finally figured out how the moon’s phases and eclipses are produced.  It took a hands-on experiment with a classroom of adults to finally get the concept across.  There was a bare light-bulb illuminated on a stand.  We all stood around in a circle, facing it.  Then we were each handed a four-inch Styrofoam ball on a stick.  This represented the moon.  We were the earth.  Placing the ball in front of us at arm’s length to block out the light from the bulb, we got the concept of a solar eclipse.  Moving the ball slightly so that the shadow no longer fell on our faces symbolizes the new moon.  Taking the “mooncicle” in an orbit to our left, we watched the crescent of light appear and grow larger until it reached the quarter moon position at a 90 degree angle.  Then, we circled it around until we were between the “moon” and the “sun”.  Our shadow cast on the moon is a lunar eclipse.  Eclipses don’t happen every month, because the moon’s orbit isn’t in synch like that.  Crescent on the left is waxing, crescent on the right is waning .  Got it.  Then our naturalist asked us, “Does the moon rotate?”  Um.  Well, there’s a dark side of the moon that we never see, so….no?  Wrong.  If the moon didn’t rotate, we’d see the dark side eventually.  Because the moon rotates just once every month, we always see its face.  Huh?  It wasn’t until two volunteers did a “do-Si-doe” maneuver and then an earth-facing cycle that I realized that the moon rotates in order to always face the earth.  Ah, the light dawns!!

Then we did an experiment that proved to me that learning about astronomy from a 2-dimensional textbook was not helpful!  We partnered up.  One person got a 4-inch ball for the earth.  One got a pom-pom sized ball for the moon.  We were asked to hold those objects at the distance we figured would represent a scale model of the actual distance the moon is away from the earth.  I eye-balled it at about 12 inches.  That’s what I remember from illustrations and posters.  We were then handed a piece of string that had been measure to the real scale.  I took my end and began walking.  I ended up 10 feet away.  In order to put that scale into a textbook, the dot for the moon would be too small for most kids to see.

Waxing Crescent

Here’s another little blip of information that I discovered.  During the month of August, my birth month, the predominant constellation visible in the southern sky is called Aquila.  Aquila means “eagle” and according to mythology, he was a pet of Jupiter and did many tasks for him (like continually attacking Prometheus while he was bound to a mountain side).  There is also a character in the Bible named Aquila.  He was the husband of Priscilla.  I wonder if my parents were aware of this ancient coincidence when they named their August girl Priscilla?

I could barely wait to get home and tell Steve what I learned.  I love school!


8 thoughts on “Space in 3D

  1. Your parents may indeed have known and is this where the term Aquiline nose comes from do you think? eagle like?

    A very informative post..Scilla

    Now something I have noticed.. I clicked on the follow me button on here and so you show up if I look at the read posts bit but I would like to get reminders of your posts into my email. I can’t see anyway of doing that on here? Why is that?

  2. Yes, aquiline means “eagle like”! As for the “follow” – you’ve been on my list of followers for 2 months. I recently became your follower, too. Now when I look at my followers list, your follow symbol went from a + to a -. But I just clicked on that and it changed back. Look under your Blogs I Follow heading and check your settings there. That’s where I go to indicate if I want to get e-mails daily, weekly, or immediately.

    • I think you have it round the wrong way Scilla…if you click on the + follow sign then you are following…. it should then read ” – following ” …so if you click on the minus it stops you from following.

      There are usually 2 ways of following you can just click on the follow if you have a wordpress account like we do and can then view in followrs list or read blogs.
      Or you can sign to get emails sent to your email box. I can do the former with you but not the latter..

      Does all that make sense?

      • Okay, my bad. I re-enrolled the ones I follow. If you go on your Dashboard menu, and find Blogs I Follow, you have to indicate that you want e-mails from that page, otherwise it selects “Never” on the frequency of e-mails. Did you find that list on your dashboard?

      • yep I know that list but you are not in it… I refer you to my remark above about there not appearing to be anywhere on your blog where I can actually ask for emails to be sent… on mine there is the bit on the front page which invites you to put in your email address but I don’t see anywhere like that on yours?? can you add it? ( off to bed shortly 🙂 )

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