You’ve probably noticed that the moon seems to change shape over time. This is because the sun only lights up one side of the moon, the other side is dark. As the moon orbits the Earth different parts of it are lit, which is why it seems to change shape.

Image of the moon

The moon itself doesn’t emit any light, what we’re actually seeing is sunlight reflected off the moon. When we see the whole of the moon, this is called a full moon, when none of the moon is lit up this is a new moon. As we start to see more of the moon after a new moon, this is called waxing. As we see less of the moon after a full moon, we say the moon is waning.

The moon takes 27.32 days to orbit the Earth and in that time we see all the phases of the moon. New Moon to New Moon is 29.5 days.

Phases of the Moon
Phases of the Moon Diagram

Phases of the Moon Activity Ideas

Chalk Academy has some lovely moon phase water colour paintings.

A popular way to demonstrate moon phases is with oreos.

This moon phase learning toy from Happy Tots Shelf is just genius.

We’re going to make some moon phase cupcakes soon, so keep an eye out for those!

What is the lunar calendar?

The lunar calendar uses the phases of the moon to measure time, whereas the solar calendar uses the orbit of the Earth around the sun. A lunar month is shorter than a solar month and so the lunar calendar doesn’t fit our traditional year, leaving us 12 days short.

Why do you never see the far side of the Moon?

Only one side of the Moon can be seen from Earth as the Moon rotates at the same rate that it orbits the Earth, this is called tidal locking.

Activities for learning about the moon

Find out how craters are formed by dropping marbles into flour and hot chocolate powder.

What causes the phases of the moon? What's a lunar year? Why do we only see one side of the moon? Find out with these fun activities.

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The post What causes the phases of the moon? appeared first on Science Experiments for Kids.

Originally posted at Science Sparks