Earth, Sun, and Moon: Motion of the Moon

Science ObjectDigital resources are stored online in your NSTA Library.

Science Objects are two hour on-line interactive inquiry-based content modules that help teachers better understand the science content they teach. This Science Object, co-developed between NASA and NSTA, is the third of four Science Objects in the Earth, Sun, and Moon SciPack. It provides an understanding of the moon’s orbit around Earth and the phases of the moon as experienced from Earth’s surface. The Moon orbits Earth approximately once per month, causing the pattern of moon phases. Although half of the Moon’s surface is always illuminated by the Sun and half is always shaded, the portion of the illuminated surface that we see changes as the Moon orbits Earth.

  • Elementary
  • Middle

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Reviews (29)
  • on Tue Sep 25, 2018 5:03 PM

A great explanation of a big topic. It is well written and easy to follow along. The hands on activities and the check your knowledge aspects are useful in staying engaged.

Tamara N
Tamara N

  • on Tue Jul 05, 2016 2:19 PM

This was a very interesting object. It clarified many misconception in an easy to reteach fashion. This pack helps to show teachers how to make the topic interesting rather than just regurgitated facts.

Angela West
Angela West

  • on Thu Oct 29, 2015 2:48 PM

The moon and its many phases has always interested people. Starting in kindergarten students begin to learn about the moon and its many phases. Students continue to develop their knowledge of how important the moon is to earth and its impact on our environment. This sci-pack is great to help students across all grades understand the importance of the moon and its origins.

Gerard Latimore
Gerard Latimore

  • on Mon Oct 26, 2015 1:42 PM

The Motion of the Moon Science Object provides a great resource for educators. High school students studying the subject can read the object as a supplement to learning or research. Middle and elementary school teachers can use the experiments suggested as lab activities or visuals. The information given will help the reader better understand the moon’s movements, orbit, different eclipses, moon shapes, and phases.

Papillon  (Atlanta, GA)
Papillon (Atlanta, GA)

  • on Sun Oct 18, 2015 12:04 AM

It was interesting to take a closer look at the motions of the Moon. It was refreshing to learn after so many years that it takes approximately 27 days for the moon to orbit the earth. I really loved the interactive video and visuals. It kept me engaged. The material presented in the Science Pak was very informative and helpful as a refresher.

Kizzy Amos
Kizzy Amos

  • on Sat Sep 26, 2015 3:52 PM

I conducted the face and orange experiment and discovered the moon does rotate. The moon orbits the Earth once every 27.322 days. It also takes approximately 27 days for the moon to rotate once on its axis. As a result, the moon does not seem to be spinning but appears to observers from Earth to be keeping almost perfectly still. Scientists call this sychronous rotation. The side of the moon that faces Earth is known as the near side. The opposite or "back" side is the far side. Sources

Linda Howard
Linda Howard

  • on Wed Apr 01, 2015 5:44 PM

It's amazing how many misconceptions I had about the moon. This is a great science objects with good animations and assessments for you to test your knowledge.

Robin Willig  (Rye Brook, NY)
Robin Willig (Rye Brook, NY)

  • on Tue Sep 02, 2014 5:28 AM

I really enjoy Science Objects. In 1-3 hours, the Earth, Sun, and Moon: Motion of the Moon Science Object will help me re-learn, refresh, or learn for the first time some critical science concepts I will have to know to obtain my Science Educator credentials. I appreciate that I can complete them at my own pace, and that, if used as park of a SciPack, I have access to a content expert to go to for help. The NSTA Learning Center Science Objects are really beneficial!

Naomi Beverly  (Marietta, GA)
Naomi Beverly (Marietta, GA)

  • on Thu Jan 16, 2014 12:51 PM

Great for Vocabulary - gives a wonderful descriptions to explain phases of the moon.

Tory Addison
Tory Addison

  • on Tue Aug 20, 2013 10:32 PM

I used this resource very successfully during my 2013 NASA Summer of Innovation summer school class and as a prep for our 2013 Challenger Center Halley's Comet program! Loved the resource and the interactions! Also used in a Teacher Workshop prior to ALI'I!

James Johnson  (Custer City, PA)
James Johnson (Custer City, PA)

  • on Wed Nov 21, 2012 9:23 PM

In reading "Does the Moon Rotate" in this Science Object, it states the Moon has a "gravitational vice" with the Earth. Should this be "gravitational vise"?

James Johnson  (Custer City, PA)
James Johnson (Custer City, PA)

  • on Wed Feb 29, 2012 11:42 PM

There are so much truth revealed in this resource on the movement of the moon and their impact on its neighboring celestial bodies.

Ronaldo Relador  (Bowie, MD)
Ronaldo Relador (Bowie, MD)

  • on Thu Feb 09, 2012 9:19 PM

This was a great resource. This source actually gave me an idea for a lesson plan I had to write. It had been years since I even thought about the moon and its phases, and why they are caused. This was a great refresher with really neat visuals. I like that there are questions at the end in order to assess what you learned from the section...very helpful.

stephanie salazar
stephanie salazar

  • on Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:29 PM

Earth, Sun, and Moon: Motion of the Moon is an excellent learning tool. It uses diagrams to support your learning and has quiz questions throughout the unit to test your knowledge being acquired. At the same time I was working through this science object I was completely a moon chart over a month's time for my Professor at F.I.U. It was really interesting to learn about the phases of the moon and the waxing/waning of the moon while you are tracking the moon daily on a chart. I recommend this science object to refresh your memory about the moon phases, types of eclipses, and pengee/apogee.

Kelli B  (Tavernier, FL)
Kelli B (Tavernier, FL)

  • on Mon Jan 16, 2012 8:04 PM

Loved the visuals and animations!

Katherine Jezidija-Kendall
Katherine Jezidija-Kendall

  • on Fri Jan 28, 2011 2:21 PM

This was a fantastic review of material for me and great to use some of the animations and photos with classes. I especially liked the animation in which you could click on a day and see which phase the moon would look like from Earth perspective. I liked the little "quizzes" and checks embedded within the program rather than having a quiz at the very end of the material. I felt comfortable with the level of learning--I did not feel spoken down to or not able to understand the reading. This is not mu area of expertise. I liked the Stone Henge photo as an illustration of how ancient people studied the planets and moon. Excellent resource.

nancy bort  (arlington, va)
nancy bort (arlington, va)

  • on Wed Dec 22, 2010 8:47 AM

An excellent review of the many phases of the moon in relations to earth, sun and sky.

Manuel Vasquez
Manuel Vasquez

  • on Wed Nov 10, 2010 8:57 AM

Excellent source of information!

Alana P
Alana P

  • on Sun Oct 24, 2010 4:15 AM

The moon orbits is main cause of the moon phases that orbits earth approximately once in a month.

Prem Garg  (, )
Prem Garg (, )

  • on Wed Nov 02, 2016 7:30 PM

The article in this section is jam-packed with all kinds of great information and resources so that students can log information and make posters. I will definitely use this as a resource in teaching about the moon with my students!

Tammy Jo
Tammy Jo

  • on Wed Oct 21, 2015 9:17 PM

I enjoyed this science object. The best part was the images of the moon. I also enjoyed the itneractive that lunar phases as seen from earth. The discussion of eclipses helped me to gain a better understanding of them and what we are actually viewing.

Bianca Jones
Bianca Jones

  • on Thu Oct 15, 2015 6:17 PM

Earth only has one moon and eclipses of the sun and moon are dependent upon the alignment of the sun, moon, and earth. This SciPack allows teachers to engage students in a conversation that allows them to describe the motion of the moon as seen from Earth and from space and explain why the shape of the moon changes over time. Many times we talk alot about the orbit of the sun, but this SciPack is dedicated to the moon.

Charnita W
Charnita W

  • on Thu Oct 15, 2015 6:03 PM

This SciPack discussed the motions of the moon and is a good resource to teach forth graders the solar system, phases of the moon, and the eclipses of the sun and moon. The section with the eclipse of the sun and moon gave much information to help students to understand how an eclipse form and the different types of eclipse.

Felicia A
Felicia A

  • on Thu Oct 15, 2015 5:37 PM

The sci pack provides an understanding of the moon’s orbit around Earth and the phases of the moon as experienced from Earth’s surface. It was interesting and informative.

Tanya Barrett
Tanya Barrett

  • on Thu Oct 15, 2015 5:32 PM

I enjoying reading about the phases of the Moon. I even purchased Oreo cookies and review the phases of the Moon with my daughter. The Moon rotates around the Earth in an ellipse every 27.3 days. The Earth's gravity causes one side of the Moon to always face the Earth. The length of a day on the Moon is 29.53 Earth days. The angle of the Sun on the Moon, with respect to the Earth causes the phases of the Moon. An eclipse of the Moon is when the Earth blocks light from the Sun. An eclipse of the Sun is when the Moon blocks the view of the Sun from observers on Earth.

Aisha Burchfield  (Covington, GA)
Aisha Burchfield (Covington, GA)

  • on Tue Oct 22, 2013 9:26 AM

This resource is very timely for meeting my needs on this topic. I will certainly recommend to my teachers. Noteworthy about this resource i is that it provides an excellent review of the many phases of the moon in relations to earth, sun and sky.

Yolanda Smith-Evans  (Houston, TX)
Yolanda Smith-Evans (Houston, TX)

  • on Tue Dec 27, 2011 3:26 PM

The motion of the moon is a difficult topic for many to understand. I know that when I am going to teach my students about this that I will need to rely on pieces of this guide to help me. I know that the images will aid my presentations.

Kelly  (Brewster, NY)
Kelly (Brewster, NY)

  • on Wed Dec 14, 2011 2:15 PM

I will be teaching my students about the phases of the moon in a few weeks. I wanted a way to refresh my memory of the topic and came across this Science Object. It only took about an hour to complete but was very imformative. I highly suggest this for anyone who needs a refresher.

Nathalia X
Nathalia X

  • on Thu Jan 02, 2014 5:11 PM

Motion of the Moon Object contact knowledge is clear and moves beyond an elementary understanding. The preconceptions sections and the explanations or debunking would help the average elementary classroom teacher that teaches science understand what they are supposed to teach and not just explain what he/she has memorized. I was familiar with most of the vocabulary but applying the vocabulary to the major ideas of moon motion is the strength of this object. I found the Approximate Rise and Set times of the moon chart very interesting. I had not seen it before and I had to spend time understanding the data to apply the knowledge. My Macbook Air computer was not able to access all of the hands on learning opportunities this object provided. Sometimes moving from one section to the next was cumbersome and took extended time. I would share this learning experience with other teachers.

Cynthia D
Cynthia D

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