Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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Teacher's Lab
A Private Universe ProjectWhat are Your Ideas?
IntroductionIn Class Activities
   
 

 Sun Moon Spin Introduction

Luminous, radiant, magnificent. That's the Moon. Dark, cold, lifeless. That's the Moon too. We can't see the "new Moon." But we watch it wax and then gaze in amazement when it becomes the "full Moon." What causes the Moon to change its appearance? to go from being totally invisible to being fully lit? What are its phases? How does it spin? How does it orbit? Or does it spin and orbit at all?

The model-building exercise in this section can help our understanding in two ways. First, it highlights how astronomy misconceptions often develop from our observations of the sky. Like any good scientist, we try to make sense of the world around us by creating private theories to explain the cause of phenomena we observe. Many of us have noticed that the Moon seems to rise and set in a day. What does this tell us about the Moon's orbit? Similarly, many of us have noticed that we always see the same pattern of craters on the Moon. What does this tell us about how the Moon spins on its axis?

Second, it mimics how astronomers test their hypothesis using models. To test a hypothesis, a scientist will often create a computer model that depicts how an astronomical object, such as the Moon, might behave if her hypothesis were true. Then the scientist compares the results of her model with what is actually observed. As long as the model accurately describes the behavior of the object, the scientist will hold on to her hypothesis. But when the model fails to predict what is actually observed, the scientist will have to either revise the hypothesis or completely abandon her beliefs.

Explore your ideas about how the Moon's appearance changes over time with the Moon Motions Activity.

Note: You can also use this modeling exercise in conjunction with the Moon Journal activity; see In-Class Activities.

 
 

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