Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Learning something new!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Learning something new!
Current mood: tested

Well, I feel a little dumb!
I fancy myself as being pretty informed. I've been reading nearly non-stop since I was a kid, and a lot of that is factual stuff from a wide range of interests. I've picked up a pretty good store of random, (nearly) useless knowledge. It usually serves me well as I try to answer Littleman's endless stream of questions.

Tonight, there was a total lunar eclipse. After getting the boys ready for bed, I took everyone outside to admire it- by that time, the Earth's shadow was covering about half the moon. I explained to Littleman and Sweetcheeks that the moon was getting covered up by the Earth's shadow, and we talked about how we see shadows when an object (ie; the Earth) gets in-between the light source (sun) and the surface we are looking at (moon). We made our own shadows on the living room wall before heading up to bed.

A little while ago, I was thinking about my explanation, and I realized that if I was correct (which I was), then I must have the moon's phases all wrong! All this time, I've had a vague notion that we see the phases of the moon because of the shadow that the Earth casts. But of course, that can't be right! Feeling like a ninny for not ever thinking of this before, I went googling for an answer. And of course, I found one:

Check it out- it's a very clear explanation with a great visual!

So it turns out that the moon is always half illuminated and half in darkness (except during a lunar eclipse). We see phases of the moon because we are usually looking at the moon from the side, seeing only part of the illuminated side and part of the darkened side. The phases change in a cycle as the moon orbits around the Earth, changing the angle from which we view it. Which makes sense, because the line between light and shadow is crisp for a moon's phase, but all soft and fuzzy in an eclipse. Ah ha!

Cool huh?

* * *
Thumbs-up for that site on moon phases for remedying my ignorance!


Michelle Roebuck said...

This subject is one of those blastedly (is that a word?) confounding subjects - When I took Astrophysics in college (yes, a Creative Writing major took Astrophysics because it was a science without a lab, and really it used to be called Astronomy until dimwits kept getting it confused with Astrology) I didn't really understand the whole phases of the moon thing until the day of the exam when it all of a sudden clicked. There was a tennis ball visual that my prof used and it stuck in my head... long enough, that is, to make it through the exam. Then it was gone again. Wiped out by all the rest of my (useless) knowledge.

Unknown said...

I am glad to know someone else out there is as nerdy as me (hope that doesn't offend). I also like to figure things out which I do not understand, good for you on seeking knowledge to teach correctly!

Kit said...

Definitely no offense taken! And, welcome, donna! It was a love of seeking knowledge that pointed me toward a teaching profession, and now I get to put it to good use homeschooling.

"Blastedly" is a great word, which knows no dictionary- spell check hates it, but you are not the first to ignore spell check for a perfect little invention of an adverb. ;)

Rick said...

Deep moon thoughts there.