Day-time Moon Observations
Almost everybody has seen the moon at night, but most people have never noticed that the moon is often visible in the daytime sky. This section of our web site has been designed to help you know when and where to look for the moon in the daytime sky.
In order for people to truly learn concepts like the phases of the moon, they should have a solid set of experiences in seeing the moon in the sky in different phases. Teachers often express frustration in trying to help students acquire these experiences through night-time observations, and express a lack of knowledge and resources as to when to look for the moon during the day. So this page is especially designed to make it easier for teachers to take their students outside to look for the moon and to observe it's phase.
What should we look for?
Look for the moon, obviously, but pay close attention to its appearance in the sky. You could also note the positions of the sun and the moon in the sky with relation to each other. Depending on the age of your students, and your goals, you may want to have the students sketch what the moon looks like. Or, pick out a picture or drawing of the moon which would best match the way they are seeing it in the sky. Consider recording the phase of the moon on your classroom calendar along with weather observations.
Students could notice that the sun and moon seem to move across the sky throughout the day by going out at different times during the day. These observations could take anywhere from a few minutes to 45 minutes depending on your goals. You could even make the observations while lining up to go in from recess!
Tips for Observing the Moon in the Daytime
Observing the moon in the daytime can be a challenge. Finding the moon in the sky is easiest when the moon is at least in a thick crescent phase, and when the sky is totally free from clouds, and the humidity is low. This makes for a nice dark blue sky which which contrasts nicely with the moon. However, the weather doesn't always cooperate to this extent. (Sorry we can't help with the weather.)
To increase your chances of success, try these tips:
- Use the resources below to assist you in knowing where and when to look.
- The moon will most likely be smaller than you expect at first.
- Put your hand in front of the sun while you are looking for the moon. If the moon is to the left of the sun in the sky, then use you right hand, and if the moon is to the right of the sun, use your left.
- If the sky is partly cloudy, keep watching in the part of the sky where you expect to find the moon. As the clouds pass by, you'll be able to see the moon intermittently.
- To find a thin crescent moon, try moving just into a shadow. Make sure that the correct part of the sky is still visible. Sometimes an overhang at the entrance of a building, or a corner of a building works well.
Note: If you have any other techniques that you have found helpful, please share them with us so that we can share them with the world!
How often should we make these observations?
Go out as often as you can over a 2 or 3 month period. Hopefully, students will be able to look back at their observations and start to see patterns. These patterns in the changing appearance of the moon form the building blocks for exploring why the moon changes phases.
For a simple calendar which only shows what the moon's phase looks like each day, try StarDate's.
To find the rise and set times for the moon today, try this great site: "Find Sun and Moon Rise and Set Times."
Moon Observation Resources:
Heavens-Above's Interactive Star Chart:
You can use this site to show a map of the current sky or go forward or back in time. This link sets the location for Madison, Wisconsin, but you can reset the map for any location. This simulation does include the Moon, but that doesn't mean that the Moon will be in the sky right now. See the moonrise calendar below for rising times.
TimeAndDate.com's Moonrise Calculator:
This site allows you to set your location, and then you can view the current month's data, or set it to a time in the future. It gives you the rise and set times for the Moon for each day. It also tells you how much of the side facing us will be lit (illumination%). Then, if you click on one of the days, you can see a graphic of the Moon's direction and altitude throughout the day. As you move your cursor along the curved line, it will give you specific information about that time of day (altitude and direction for the moon). [see graphic below] The number you see with the degree symbol is the azimuth. Azimuth is the compass direction expressed in degrees, with north being 0°, east is 90°, south is 180°, and west is 270°.
Below is a screenshot from TimeAndDate.com's Moonrise Calculator:
How many moons are in the Solar System? We don't know, but you can check on the latest tally on our Instructional Resources page.