Welcome to the DC Digital Lab!
Our team has put together a collection of videos, experiments and activities that you can do at home. We are here to help you overcome boredom and learn a few things in the process! Simply click the image or video to start your at home discoveries.
Phases of the Moon
Have you ever looked at the moon at night? Did you notice that it looks different? This is because the moon cycles through 8 different phases within the span of a month. Phase one is a new moon, this is when the side of the moon that faces the Earth is not hit by sunlight. The moon is not typically visible during the new moon. Phase 2 consists of the waxing crescent, less than half of the moon is lit up and the size slowly increases. Phase 3 is known as the first quarter, in which half the moon is lit by the sun. Phase 4 is the waxing gibbous; half of the moon is lit and gradually gets bigger. A full moon is Phase 5, when the side facing the Earth is lit up by the sun entirely. Phase 6 is the waning gibbous, and the lit part is getting smaller. Phase 7 is the last quarter in which half the moon is lit by the sun, and Phase 8 is the waning crescent, which is a small sliver of moon present.
Tides are the periodic rise and fall of surface water caused by the gravitational force of the moon sun and rotation of the earth. The movements of the solar system that influence the tides are predictable; therefore, changes in tide height and time are predictable. As tides change, large quantities of water move toward or away from shore causing tidal currents. The movement of tidal currents contributes to ocean circulation. Tides are affected by the gravitational forces of both the moon and sun, which cause two low tides and two high tides each day. The highest tides, called spring tides, are formed when the earth, sun and moon are lined up in a row. This happens every two weeks during a new moon or full moon. Smaller tides, called neap tides, are formed when the earth, sun and moon form a right angle. This causes the sun and moon to pull the water in two different directions. Neap tides happen during a quarter or three-quarter moon.
Now that you know a little bit about phases of the moon, let’s explore it further with some hands-on activities! Check out the activities and videos below.
Visualizing Moon Phases
This activity is the simulation of how the Sun and Earth play a role in the changing moon phases.
- Styrofoam sphere
- Place the lamp in the middle of the room.
- Poke a hole into the sphere with the pencil and hold the pencil, with sphere attached, in one hand. It should look like you’re holding a lollipop
- The bulb is the sun, the sphere is the moon and you are the Earth
- Rotate around the room for each of the phases described below:
- New Moon: To begin, face the lamp and extend the sphere directly in front of them, raising the sphere enough so you can see the lamp. This view simulates a new moon. As you look at your moon, you will see that the sunlight is shining on the far side, opposite the view of the moon. From Earth, the new moon is not seen.
- Waxing Crescent Moon: Keeping your arm extended in front of your body, turn your body counterclockwise about 45 degrees. You should see the right-hand edge of the sphere illuminated as a crescent. The moon is waxing because we are seeing more of its surface illuminated.
- First Quarter: Continue turning left so your moon and body are now 90 degrees to the left of their original position. The right half of the sphere should now be illuminated. This phase is called the first quarter.
- Waxing Gibbous Moon:As you continue to move you will see more and more illuminated surface.
- Full Moon: Move the moon so it is directly opposite the sun, as viewed from Earth (you), the half seen from Earth is fully illuminated. (Make sure you hold your moon high enough so the “sunlight” is not blocked by your head.)
- Waning Gibbous Moon: As you continue to turn, they start to see less and less of the illuminated surface.
- Third or Last Quarter Moon:Keep turning, with arms extended, so you are now three-quarters of the way around from your original position. This is the third, or last, quarter. They should observe that the opposite side from the first quarter moon is now illuminated.
- Waning Crescent Moon:Now the illuminated surface of the moon is growing smaller and smaller, bringing it back to a new moon.
- Return to New Moon: The continued counterclockwise movement brings a thinning crescent and finally a return to a new moon.
Oreo Moon Phases
This is a delicious activity that will help you understand how the different moon phases look!
- A knife or spoon
- Look at the examples of the moon phases
- Try to separate the Oreos in half revealing the frosting (take both sides and gently twist and pull apart)
- Carefully cut out sections of the frosting until it looks like the 8 different moon phases
Video Experiments and Activities
DIY Science PDF experiments
Virtual Critter Corner