Use Eclipse Photos to Get Kids Curious

June 3, 2012 at 10:17 AM Leave a comment

Feel free to download and use the photos on my photo blog of lunar and solar eclipse to pique kids’ curiosity about these amazing events – these might be a way to start a unit on astronomy and/or light and optics.

Start very open ended – what’s going on here? Take ideas. Then give a little more detail that is on the titles of the photos.

Have students model it – Provide flashlights for the sun (or the flashlight app on their smart phones will do too), an orange speared on a sharp pencil (for the Earth’s axis) and a speared marshmallow (for the moon. Not to scale but white and delicious :-). A pin or thumbtack could represent them on the Earth. Ask them to align the sun, Earth and moon so the thumb tack person would see a full moon, a half moon and a new moon. Then show a lunar and a solar eclipse. What phase must the moon be for a solar eclipse? (New) What must it be for a lunar eclipse (full). It’s so quick and easy for you to see who gets it, and to help those who don’t.

Here’s a serendipitous shot taken from a plane en route from SFO to the UK at sunset to illustrate the alignment of sun, earth and moon at full moon. The full light on the wing tip is the same light that will be illuminating the full moon:

And the close up because it’s so pretty (Hey, Virgin Atlantic, how about paying me for this one 🙂


Explanations: The crescent sun pinhole projection fits with 7th grade light and optics curriculum in California, and the red eclipsed moon does also – light diffracts around the Earth. Red light is diffracted the most and diffracts around the shadow of the Earth falling on the Moon.

The crescents of sun in the dappled light are because the chinks inbetween leaves act as pinholes, filtering out all but the rays that cross at the pinhole, projecting an upside down image of the eclipsing sun. Demonstrate with a bright bulb in a dark room with a large card board with a pinhole in it, projecting onto a white screen. Or do it with the sun outside if another eclipse is due soon. (Much safer, easier way than looking at the eclipse directly, even with X-ray film or welders masks.)

Entry filed under: Astronomy, Curiosity, Photos to support curriculum, Physics Topics, Snapshot Science. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

F-words for the Final Weeks From this year’s students to next – The end of year letter

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