astr 1000 project 1

Project 1: Observing the Moon (180 points)

In this project, you will observe the Moon and its position in the evening sky every night for approximately 2 weeks as it goes from new moon to full moon.

To find out the date of the next new moon, just look at almost any calendar. You can usually begin your observations a few days after the date of new moon, when you will see the moon as a thin crescent in the west just after sunset. For this activity to be successful, your observations must be made at the same time every day. Select a time in the evening that is most convenient for you (between 8 pm and 11 pm is probably best), and be sure to make your observation at this time every day. If you choose to do your observations later in the evening, you will have to wait a day or two longer after the new moon before the moon will be visible.

Your sketches must be made with your own hands and a pen/pencil/crayon/marker on a real physical piece of paper. At the end of the project you will need to take digital pictures or make scans of your paper sketches. Then upload your sketches as well as your answers to the questions below.

Obviously, you cannot make observations when it is cloudy or raining, which is beyond your control. However I do require that to complete this project, you must turn in a minimum of seven nights observations. All of your sketches must be based on observations that you make yourself with your own eyes. If you don’t see the moon with your own eyes on a particular night, do not make a sketch for that night. If you have a long stretch of really bad weather, you may have to wait for next month. If this becomes a problem, please contact me.

We recommend that you do not turn in this project until you have completed the course through assignment 4, so that you have thoroughly studied the concepts that we’ll be using. In particular, make sure that you have carefully learned unit 1.4. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to send me an e-mail,and I’ll be happy to help out.

Observation Sketches:

A. (15 pts) Make each sketch on a separate piece of blank paper.

B. (15 pts) List the date and time when you made the observation at the top of each sketch.

C.(15 pts) Identify the phase of the moon at the top of each sketch.

D. (15 pts) Clearly show what part of the moon is lit up and what part is in shadow.

E. (15 pts) Clearly show the position of the moon in the sky. Your sketch should indicate not only how high high in the sky the Moon is (i.e. low near the horizon or high near the zenith), but also the direction in which the Moon is to be found (i.e. Northeast, East, Southeast, South, Southwest, etc.). (Remember that if you are facing South and looking UP at the sky, then West will be to your right, and East to your left. This is the opposite of how we draw maps with West at the left and East at the right.)

F. (15 pts) Estimate at what time the moon rose and at what time it will set, writing these at the bottom of each sketch.

All sketches must be based on your own personal observations of the actual moon in the sky, observations made with your own eyes.

After you have completed your sketches, please turn them in along with your answers to the following questions.


1. (10 pts) Why does the amount of the moon that is lit up change from night to night?

2. (10 pts) Why must your observations be made at the same time every day for this project to work?

3. (10 pts) Why couldn’t we continue this project in the same way for a full lunar cycle?

4. (20 pts) Explain the main reason why the position of the moon in the sky changes over the course of a single night. In other words why is the moon in a different position in the sky at 11:00 than it was as 9:00?

5. (20 pts) Explain why the position of the moon in the sky changes from night to night, so that at 9:00 tomorrow it will be at a different position in the sky than it was at 9:00 today.

6. (+20 pts or -100 pts) When the moon is in the first quarter phase, half of it is lit up and half is in shadow. What object casts this shadow? In other words, what object blocks the light, leaving half of the moon in shadow? Carefully explain your answer. (Warning: If you give an answer that is VERY wrong, I will take off 100 points.)

WARNING: Be accurate, precise, and honest in your sketches and records of observation dates and times. Some students have been tempted to cheat by googling some images of moon phases and submitting sketches of them, rather than actually making the nightly observations with their own eyes required by the project. Falsifying data is a very serious form a cheating. Please know that I am very good at astronomy, and I know a lot about the moon and its phases, which makes this sort of cheating very obvious to me. As stated in the syllabus, any type of dishonesty, if a first offense, will return in a zero for the relevant assignment. As a result, if even one single observation is falsified in any way, the result is a zero for all 180 points on this project, thus causing the course grade to drop by almost two full letter grades. If you have difficulty with this assignment or if you need assistance, please contact me: I am always here to help, and I want to see you succeed in this course.

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