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Weather experiment learning about the moon phase

Posted at 5:59 AM, Apr 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 09:47:09-04

GRAND RAPIDS  — Did you see the moon last night? Currently we have a full super pink moon which is so cool to see in the sky! Do you know how we get a full moon? What is happening when we see all the different shapes of the moon? Today's experiment will explain it all and we will do it by using Oreo cookies!

Here is what you'll need:
-2 paper plates
-Oreo cookies
-colored markers

Step 1: Color your paper plates. One needs to be the sun. Another needs to have a small earth in the center with moon phase position on the outer rim.

Step 2: Twist apart your Oreo cookies and cut off the cream for each moon phase

1. New moon
2. Waxing crescent
3. First quarter
4. Waxing gibbous
5. Full moon
6. Waning gibbous
7. Third quarter
8. Waning crescent

The moon phase depends only on the position of the moon in reference to the earth and sun. The moon’s revolution around the earth makes it appear to change shape and look different to us. The sun lights up different sides of the moon depending on where the moon is in rotation around the earth. We are seeing sunlight being reflected on the moon in those different shapes. The moon doesn’t give off light it simply reflects the sunlight. One orbit of the moon around the earth takes about 27 days and a full lunar phase to go from new moon to new moon takes 29.5 days so almost a full month.

A lunar phase starts as a new moon and increases the amount of sunlight reflected as it works to a full moon. the moon than decreases the amount of sunlight reflected working from a full moon back to a new moon. Below is each step of the lunar phase broken down.

New moon = no illumination
This happens when the moon, earth and sun all line up on approximately the same line. Since the sun is behind the moon from the earth’s perspective, our perspective, the side of the moon that is facing us is dark.

Full moon = full illumination
This happens when the moon, earth and sun all line up on approximately the same line. This time though the moon is on the opposite side of the earth so the sun is illuminating the whole side that faces us.

First/third quarter = half illumination
This happens when the moon lies perpendicular to the sun and earth. We see half the moon lite up and the other half stays in the shadow.
Why is it called a quarter then? Refers to the perspective fraction of an orbit that the moon has completed since it started has a new moon.

Waxing/waning crescent and gibbous = a quarter illumination
These are the phases in between quarters and the new and full moon. It’s the transition phases so we just need to know if we are decreasing or increasing illuminated sunlight.
Crescent = less than half illuminated
Gibbous = more than half illuminated
Waxing = expanding illumination
Waning = decreasing illumination

If you are having a hard time remembering the order of the moon phase just think of the saying “white on right….getting bright”!

There you go! The moon phase with Oreo cookies! Send our meteorologist Candace Monacelli your pictures doing this experiments at home! She will feature future meteorologists on my Facebook page daily!