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Observing the Sun and the Moon

Stage: 2 and 3 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:1

This project provides ideas for a STEM club for a period of several weeks or even months, as a background to other activities.
This would be a great project for a STEM club wanting to combine maths and science in an interesting way.  This project is an opportunity for students to plan their own observation schedule depending on the precise question they want to investigate.  Because it is open to students to do their own planning, it is suitable for a CREST award.

What does this project offer your club?

The purpose of this project is to use observation to find out more about the sun and moon and how they appear to us.  It requires regular observation and careful recording of data, both useful skills for students to practise.

Possible approach

Observations could be taken each week, although it would be a mistake to limit yourselves to the same day each week regardless of the weather, unless you are in a place where the sky is always clear.

You could start by getting students to brain-storm what they want to observe, and what they hope to find out from their observations.  Then they should think about how they are going to record their data.  It might be helpful to have a trial period of a week or two, when students try out different methods and see which are best - whatever they do needs to be straight-forward, and easily repeated time after time.

It is most important that students are warned about the dangers of looking directly at the sun.  If they wish to observe the sun, they should make the pinhole camera and observe the image of the sun on a screen or large sheet of white paper.

Key questions

What do you want to find out about?

How are you going to collect your data?

How are you going to record your observations?

Other links


The background tab links to a long project 'Experiments in Astronomy' on Motivate, where this project originated, and where you will find many more ideas.

More ideas links to another set of Motivate resources, 'Earth, Moon, Sun and Stars'.

More advanced projects links to a more advanced set of resources, 'Space Science'. originally used with schools in the UK and South Africa.

Read: astronomy is a Plus article, 'Hunting for life in alien worlds'.

Cosmologist links to a Plus article by Stephen Hawking on his 70th birthday, 'A brief history of mine'.