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written by Pierre Sokolsky
published by the University of Utah
This interactive tutorial features an inquiry-based approach to promote understanding of moon phases. Part of the Astrophysics Science Project Integrating Research and Education (ASPIRE), the tutorial opens with a diagram of the Earth-Moon system. The user "spins" the Earth, then determines which sections of Earth and Moon are receiving sunlight. In Part 2, users investigate how sunlight reflecting off the Earth is related to moon phases. The animation divides Earth into 8 sections and places the direction of incoming sunlight. Using only the images in the diagram, students must correctly label the moon phases. Part 3 puts everything together as Moon orbits around Earth.

Editor's Note: In the spirit of true inquiry, students will require time to explore this simulation. Expect younger students to have some confusion about the waxing and waning nature of moon phase changes. Older students will get it more quickly, but still need time to process how lunar phases depend upon the observer's position and reflection of sunlight. This struggle is necessary, but should produce some "aha" moments.

This resource is part of ASPIRE, an interactive lab project designed to be visually attractive and fun, yet mentally challenging for students in grades 6-9. Materials include complete lesson plans authored collaboratively by teachers and research scientists. See Related Materials for a link to the full collection.

Please note that this resource requires Flash.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
- Solar System
= The Moon
Education Practices
- Active Learning
= Inquiry Learning
- Middle School
- High School
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Interactive Simulation
= Tutorial
- Audio/Visual
= Movie/Animation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- Assessment
- New teachers
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© 2007 The University of Utah-High Resolution Fly's Eye Group, http://www.cosmic-ray.org/abouthires.html
Animations, Astronomy simulations, Interactive labs, Middle school , Simulations, inquiry, inquiry-based labs, lunar phase, moon phases
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created July 12, 2010 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 2, 2016 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
July 31, 2005


Author: faith wiliams
Posted: January 9, 2011 at 6:25PM
Source: The PSRC collection

I would love to do the activity on the lunar phases, but the link doesn't seem to be connecting.  I had planned on doing the activity tomorrow, Jan. 10.
Faith Williams

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AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4B. The Earth
  • 6-8: 4B/M5. The moon's orbit around the earth once in about 28 days changes what part of the moon is lighted by the sun and how much of that part can be seen from the earth- the phases of the moon.
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Record Link
AIP Format
P. Sokolsky, (University of Utah, Salt Lake City, 2007), WWW Document, (http://aspire.cosmic-ray.org/Labs/LunarPhases/lunar_phases_main.html).
P. Sokolsky, ASPIRE: Lunar Phases (University of Utah, Salt Lake City, 2007), <http://aspire.cosmic-ray.org/Labs/LunarPhases/lunar_phases_main.html>.
APA Format
Sokolsky, P. (2005, July 31). ASPIRE: Lunar Phases. Retrieved July 12, 2024, from University of Utah: http://aspire.cosmic-ray.org/Labs/LunarPhases/lunar_phases_main.html
Chicago Format
Sokolsky, Pierre. ASPIRE: Lunar Phases. Salt Lake City: University of Utah, July 31, 2005. http://aspire.cosmic-ray.org/Labs/LunarPhases/lunar_phases_main.html (accessed 12 July 2024).
MLA Format
Sokolsky, Pierre. ASPIRE: Lunar Phases. Salt Lake City: University of Utah, 2007. 31 July 2005. 12 July 2024 <http://aspire.cosmic-ray.org/Labs/LunarPhases/lunar_phases_main.html>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "Pierre Sokolsky", Title = {ASPIRE: Lunar Phases}, Publisher = {University of Utah}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {12 July 2024}, Month = {July 31, 2005}, Year = {2007} }
Refer Export Format

%A Pierre Sokolsky %T ASPIRE: Lunar Phases %D July 31, 2005 %I University of Utah %C Salt Lake City %U http://aspire.cosmic-ray.org/Labs/LunarPhases/lunar_phases_main.html %O application/flash

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %A Sokolsky, Pierre %D July 31, 2005 %T ASPIRE: Lunar Phases %I University of Utah %V 2024 %N 12 July 2024 %8 July 31, 2005 %9 application/flash %U http://aspire.cosmic-ray.org/Labs/LunarPhases/lunar_phases_main.html

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The AIP Style presented is based on information from the AIP Style Manual.

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ASPIRE: Lunar Phases:

Is Part Of ASPIRE: Lessons

A link to the full collection of ASPIRE materials. Topics include force and motion, kinetic energy, wave basics, star life cycle, electronics, and more.

relation by Caroline Hall
Covers the Same Topic As Phases of Moon Model

This resource integrates a hands-on investigation with a computer model of moon phases, allowing students to test whether the computer simulation accurately depicts the real phenomenon.

relation by Caroline Hall

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Related Materials

Is Part Of

ASPIRE: Lessons

Covers the Same Topic As

Phases of Moon Model

See details...

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