astronomy

Supermoon!

The Moon appears to be bigger and brighter tonight as it’s elliptical orbit brings it closer to the Earth than at any other time of the year.

If you are teaching about the Moon at the moment this is a great story to teach about the Moon’s orbit and phases as well as the effect of its gravity on the Earth (as tides are expected to be higher this weekend as an effect).

Space vacation

The story

Getting into space the traditional way, in a space shuttle, is an expensive process but at least we know it works. Is travelling up in an elevator attached to a 36 000 km cable any more cost effective or realistic? More

Moonwatch

The story

The society for Popular Astronomy is organising a Moonwatch event which starts this Wednesday (17th) and runs until the following Sunday.  During this time the Moon will go through a number of phases from crescent to full.

They have a website dedicated to the event which encourages teachers to study the Moon with their classes as it is visible after school from about 4:30pm onwards.  They advise using a telescope or binoculars if you want to study the surface of the Moon and have pages on the website which detail the features that you will be able to spot.

Teaching idea and resources

Inspired by the Moonwatch event I have uploaded a Moonwatch PowerPoint which contains some simple starter questions which can be used with a class when studying the solar system.

When I taught this in the past I used to tell my class that the Moon changed shape because it is made from cheese and space mice ate it.  When the whole Moon was eaten it disappeared, only to be replaced by a new ball of cheese from the Mouse God who lived behind the sun.  Of course – they told me that this was total rubbish but it made them think when I asked them how they were so sure – what proof did they have that my theory was wrong?

There is also a moon phases worksheet that asks students to predict what the Moon will look like from Earth during various points during its orbit.  They can check their answers by watching one of the animations linked below.

If you want your students to take part in the Moonwatch event but don’t have the equipment to view the moon, why not ask the students to complete a ‘Moon diary’ for the event?  They can view the Moon every night at home and then draw each phase.  You can then use their observations as a basis for discussion in the classroom.

Weblinks

The Moonwatch week website

Simple animation showing the phases of the moon.  Suitable for KS2/3 students.

More complicated animation suitable for high ability KS3 students and KS4.

Space tourism

The story

How long will it be before visiting space will be as common an event as boarding a flight to Spain?  And will we be holidaying on Mars rather than Marbella in the future? More

A home from home? Solar system discovered like our own

Credit: ESO/L Calcado

The story

Another space post from me this week – seems those astronomers are hard at work at the moment.

This story comes via the European southern Observatory (ESO), where astronomers have found a Solar System 127 light years away More

The incredible shrinking Moon

The story

Astronomers studying pictures from a NASA orbiter have announced that wrinkles on the surface of the Moon is evidence it is still geologically active and that it is not the dead, inactive lump of rock that we have previously thought. More

Most massive (not biggest) star discovered

The story:

Astronomers discovered a huge star in a nearby galaxy last week.  R136a1, part of the Large Magellanic Cloud, is estimated to have a mass 265 times more than the sun and to shine around a million times more brightly. More

Monitoring the melting ice

arctic ice meltClimate change has been a hot (pun unintended) topic in the news recently.  The latest UN climate talk opened on Friday, with the hope of reaching the global treaty that the Copenhagen talks in December failed to produce. More