Tomorrow night brings June’s full moon (the Strawberry Moon), so be sure to keep an eye out for werewolves dressed for summer. Additionally, if you’ve got would-be junior astronomers at home who want to know more about the Moon and how it grows and shrinks every month, now is the perfect time for a little DIY demonstration.
Making “Sunlamp” A Bit More Literal
This one’s fairly quick and easy, and there’s about a 99.9% chance you’ve got everything you need at home already. You’ll need a lamp, a pencil (or other pointed stick), a foam ball roughly the size of an apple (something like a Nerf ball would work perfectly—so would an apple, actually), and, um, a doorway.
First, stick the pencil into the middle of your foam ball, creating a lollipop-like apparatus. Second, put the lamp in the doorway and turn it on. Next, with you and your fellow experimenters on the shiny side of the lamp, turn out the other lights in the room.
Then, have the chosen experimenter stand facing the lighted doorway, holding the stick with the ball on it out in front of him/herself at just above head height. Have him/her slowly turn in a circle, holding the ball out as he/she spins. Observe the ball and the shifting light that falls upon it.
The Sciencey Part
In this scenario, the lamp becomes the sun, the ball becomes the moon, and the experimenter becomes the earth. Kids will see how the position of the moon relative to Earth and the sun affects the amount of light that hits it: while facing the doorway, the ball will be totally dark on the side facing the experimenter (New Moon); turned 180 degrees, it will be completely illuminated (Full Moon).
Every degree of rotation in between will affect the interplay of light and shadow, giving an easy to see—and therefore easy to understand—demonstration of the phases of the moon.
- Janice VanCleave’s Astronomy for Every Kid: 101 Easy Experiments that Really Work, Janice VanCleve, 1991. ISBN 978-0471535737