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Solar and Lunar Eclipse Model
written by Mario Belloni and Todd Timberlake
This interactive model simulates solar and lunar eclipses. By viewing the Moon's orbital inclination (5.145 degrees with respect to the ecliptic), students can visualize why solar and lunar eclipses do not happen every month. The model also serves to clarify the process of Moon precession, a change in the orientation of the Moon's rotational axis as it rotates around the Earth. The model does not introduce the geometry of inclination and precession; rather, it aims to provide ways to visualize the processes in either 2D or 3D. The inclination and the motion of Moon and Earth are depicted (the size of Sun, Earth, and Moon and the size of Moon's orbit are not shown to scale). The illuminated sides of Earth and Moon and the regions of possible eclipses (in yellow and green) are also depicted. In the Ecliptic View, the motion of Sun and Moon across the sky (+/- 7 degrees from the ecliptic) are shown. Moon's phase is shown and solar and lunar eclipses can occur on the ecliptic when Earth, Sun, and Moon line up properly.

Please note that this resource requires at least version 1.5 of Java (JRE).
Editor's Note: Note to Teachers:  Viewing the model in 3D will require an additional free software download.

NGSS Standards (5)

1 source code document is available
Subjects Levels Resource Types
- Astronomy Education
= Curricula
- Fundamentals
= Eclipses
= Lunar Phases
- Solar System
= The Moon
- High School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Middle School
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Interactive Simulation
= Simulation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- Activity
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