What is the Difference between a Solar Eclipse and a Lunar Eclipse?
In this activity students will examine NASA data to determine the differences between a solar and lunar eclipse.
Remember to never look directly at the Sun without proper safety equipment.
An eclipse happens when a planet or a moon gets in the way of the Sun’s light. Here on Earth, we can experience two kinds of eclipses: solar eclipses and lunar eclipses. A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, causing the Moon to cast a shadow on Earth. A lunar eclipse occurs when Earth is between the Sun and the Moon, causing Earth to cast a shadow on the Moon.
- Examine the diagrams. One shows a solar eclipse. The other shows a lunar eclipse. Answer the following questions:
- What are the similarities between these two types of eclipses?
- What are the differences between these two types of eclipses?
- Which object casts a bigger shadow, Earth or the Moon?
- Which eclipse can more people on Earth experience at the same time? Support your claim with evidence and reasoning.
- Which image is of a solar eclipse taken from Earth? Which image is of a lunar eclipse taken from Earth?
- Record your observations about each image.
- Why does the Moon look the way it does during a lunar eclipse? Watch the NASA | Lunar Eclipse Essentials video and answer the following questions:
NASA | Lunar Eclipse Essentials | Video Length 1:47 | https:/www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuhNZejHeBg/
- Why does the Moon appear red during a lunar eclipse?
- What is another example of sunlight being scattered by Earth's atmosphere?
- During a total solar eclipse, the disk of the Moon blocks out the bright light of the photosphere. This exposes the Sun’s atmosphere, or the corona. The corona can only seen during a total solar eclipse, or using special equipment, like NASA has.
Examine the Mind-Melting Facts about the Sun graphic and text found on the webpage and answer the following questions.
- Which layer of the Sun is normally visible on a bright, sunny day?
- Why are scientists so interested in viewing the corona -What is the "Puzzle of Coronal Heating"?
- Model: What objects could you use to model a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse? Draw your plans for each model.
- Home. (n.d.). YouTube. Retrieved April 2, 2023, from https://spaceplace.nasa.gov/eclipses/en/
- GMS: Lunar Eclipse Essentials. (2011, June 8). NASA Scientific Visualization Studio. Retrieved March 2, 2023, from https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/10787
- NASA Heliopedia. (2022, September 6). Retrieved March 14, 2023, from https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/the-heliopedia
Teachers, these mini lessons/student activities are perfect "warm up" tasks that can be used as a hook, bell ringer, exit slip, etc. They take less than a class period to complete. Learn more on the "My NASA Data What are Mini Lessons?" page.
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Supported NGSS Performance Expectations
- 5-ESS1-2: Represent data in graphical displays to reveal patterns of daily changes in length and direction of shadows, day and night, and the seasonal appearance of some stars in the night sky.
- MS-ESS1-1: Develop and use a model of the Earth-Sun-Moon system to describe the cyclic patterns of lunar phases, eclipses of the Sun and Moon, and seasons.