Moon Phase Observing
To observe the changing appearance of the Moon over the course of several weeks.
Time Estimate
You should spend approximately 15 minutes to complete each observation and 15 minutes to submit each observation image and log entry.
This activity helps you achieve the following module objectives:
To observe each of the lunar phases.
To become familiar the the time that different moon phases appear in the observer’s sky.
To analyze and understand the relative positions of the Sun, Moon and Earth for each phase.
Four Observations
1. Observe the phase and location of the Moon within the following restrictions:
You must make at least 2 separate observations of the Moon. At least 3 days should pass between successive observations (e.g., if you observe Monday of Week 2, the next earliest observation date permissible would be Thursday of Week 2).
At least one observation (in which you can see the Moon) must be made while the sun is visible. It is a common misconception that the Moon is only visible at night. In fact, most phases are visible during the daylight hours.
You must be able to see the Moon, so new Moon or cloudy days do not count.
The Moon does not rise at the same time every day/night. You can obtain the time of moonrise/moonset on a particular day from the U.S. Naval Observatory’s Astronomical Applications site.
2. Submit a record of each Moon observation you make:
There is an observation assignment for each of the four observations. Do not submit multiple observations to one assignment.
Upload an original digital image of the Moon as observed by you. Note you can upload only one image per observation entry and that uploaded images have a maximum size of 1 MB. Image files should be in .jpg or .png format.
In the "Submission comments" field, enter the following observation log information:
Date and time of each phase observation. The observations do not have to be, and will probably not be in calendar order. Weather conditions may delay observations of the particular phases.
Complete phase name (e.g. Waxing Crescent).
Compass direction (SE, SW, etc.) and height of the Moon (e.g., high in the sky, low in the sky, on the horizon) in the sky. This need only be approximated.
Using the chart below, identify the Moon’s approximate position (by position #) in its orbit around the Earth, relative to the Sun.
Moon phases
Each of the four observations is graded out of 10 points. After the conclusion of this activity, you can expect your instructor to provide your grade and any relevant feedback to you via the Grades area. The Moon Lab accounts for up to 40 points of extra credit.
A Moon Observation Example Submission is available for review.
Moon Observation Image (digital image)
5/5 – Image clearly shows the Moon in the observed phase
3/5 – Moon phase is unclear from the image
1/5 – Image uploaded, but it is unclear which object is the Moon
0/5 – No image (Note: if there is no log information, the image will also receive 0 points)
Observation Log Information
5/5 – All required log information on the observation is given
3/5 – 1-2 required log items are missing or incorrect
1/5 – 3 or more required log items are missing or incorrect
0/5 – No log entry (Note: if there is no image, the log will also receive 0 points)
Most students who lose points do so for the following reasons:
Images are plagiarized – You must take your own image. Pulling images from the internet and submitting them as your own is plagiarism.
Phase is incorrectly identified. The phase in the image does not match the phase reported, or the phase in the image is not identifiable – Be sure your image clearly shows the phase of the moon and that you are reporting the phase correctly.
The moon was not visible at time reported because it was up at a different time.
You cannot observe a New Moon – Be sure that you plan your observations for nights other than the New Moon.
It was cloudy. You cannot submit a "this is what the Moon would have looked like" image. If it’s cloudy when you try to observe, try again a different day. Corollary: Don’t wait too long to get started.
Incomplete log information – Each submission must contain the following information: Date, Moon Phase, Phase Diagram Position #, Moon location, & Image of the Moon. See the Moon Observation Example Submission if you are unsure.
In a word, you need to take 2 moon photos and 2 Observation Log Information.

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