Moon Observation (Hirst)

Moon observation

Christine Hirst

Current Moon Phase

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Purpose: To observe the movement of the moon around Earth and the sun.


  1. What differences do you notice night to night about the appearance of the moon?
  2. How does the position of the moon change each night?
  3. How does the lit portion of the moon change each night?
  4. Do you always see the same side?
  5. How does the time of moon rise change each night?
  6. Why don't you see the moon each night?
  7. How do the main phases relate to our week?


  • Students will observe the varying features of lunar terrain
  • Students will know the dark and light areas of the moon's surface are a result of impacts
  • Students will know that evidence from the Earth and moon indicate they were both formed 4.5 billion years ago

Experimental Design


  • Sketch of the skyline, indicting direction, any obstructions to your view (rooftops, trees, etc).   I suggest copying one picture!
  • A detailed sketch of the dark spots you see on moon. (with a pencil, shade in the dark areas in the moon circle, put the spots in the correct location, show accurate details!)
  • The date, time, & location (Valencia?) from which you are observing the moon. Remember this will be different week one and two.
  • Measure the altitude (declination) and azimuth (RA) of the moon each night.  This should be indicated on your observation.
  • Measure the movement in relation to the star you have chosen.  Indicate this  star on your observation sheet.
  • Include any other stellar objects you see, such as planets, constellations, bright stars.
  • A description of the weather and other observations, such as clouds or UFOs.
  • The correct name of the lunar phase.


Moon phases simulator

Three Views 



What To DO:
1. Calculate when you plan to look for the moon (date and time) by using the Moon Phases Diagram. You need to observe for two weeks!!!  Your goal is to see  different, full phases of the moon when the sky is dark. Also remember it is YOUR job to calculate when the moon will be rising and determine when you will begin your observation.  You will also be measuring the movement in relation to a star.

Keep in mind the weather may not cooperate, so get started early! This project is impossible to do if not started by mid October. Procrastinating will result in an F grade! 

2. Make 14 observation forms.  You will be making recordings each night, and each night should be one page. Yes this will be a book when you turn it in. 

3. Take your first moon observation at night. Let your parents know where you are when you are observing; get their approval first! You should spend about 10 minutes taking your observation, AFTER your eyes have adjusted to the dark. 

4. You will be observing every night.  For the first week, this should be done at EXACTLY the same time (remember this needs to be planned out prior). The second week will be a different time, again with each observation being made at the same time. Daytime observing will not count, except for  around NEW MOON.   PLAN AHEAD! Remember that moonrise changes each night!

5. Choose a star to observe (and indicate on observation) in relation to the location and movement of the moon.
6.  AFTER you have completed  all of your observations, answer the analysis questions.


  •  Let your eyes adjust to the darkness before you start observing.  This will take about five minutes.  If you need light with you, take a flash light and cover the lens with thin red plastic.
  •  Use the Moon Phases Diagram to help you figure out the time of day/night the moon will be up, the phase, and the geometry.
  • Observe in the same place, at the same time each night.
  • Choose a time to observe when you will have a good moon to observe for a solid week. 
  • Remember there are no daytime observations!

Sample data and graphs

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Photographs and Movies

YouTube Video


Christine's sim site

Christine Hirst,
Oct 12, 2011, 9:34 PM