Solar and Lunar Eclipse

From OER in Education
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To show and explain how a Solar and Lunar eclipse occurs

Lesson idea. Researching and creating a simulation of an eclipse from two points of view, with sliders that enable the users to interact with the simulation.

As seen from the surface of the Earth, a solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, and the Moon either funnels, or partially blocks, the Sun. During total eclipses, the disk of the sun is fully blocked out by the Moon. If the Moon were in a circular orbit close enough to the Earth and in the same orbital plane (path), there would be total solar eclipses every month. However the Moon's orbit is inclined at more than 5 degrees to the Earth's orbit around the Sun. Thus the Moon's shadow at a new moon usually misses the Earth. The Earth's orbit around the sun is called the ecliptic plane as the Moon's orbit must cross this plane in order for an eclipse (both solar and lunar eclipse) to occur. Furthermore the Moon's actual orbit is also elliptical, taking it far away from the Earth that its apparent size is not large enough to fully obscure the Sun. These orbital planes cross each year at a line of nodes, this results in at least 2 and up to 5 solar eclipses occurring each year, two of which will be the only total solar eclipses in that year. In the GeoGebra project I will label all the variables that will affect the eclipse, e.g the inclined angle of the Moon's orbit etc. The target age group for this project is students that are in year seven and year eight. Projects like this one will appeal to students of this age group because at this age the students are very inquisitive and they will be interested to learn about the solar system and how eclipses occur. Further more eclipses are rear natural phenomenon thus students will be interested to learn about it and see how they can be predicted.

Teaching approach. This lesson features a ‘real life’ example for students to explore using visualisation(ta) via GeoGebra. The focus on ‘real life’ increases student motivation.

The activity engages pupils in group talk(ta), mathematical thinking(ta) and vocabulary(ta). This open ended(ta) task encourages higher order(ta) thinking, and encourages whole class(ta) discussion(ta)/questioning(ta) and inquiry(ta) projects. (edit)

Resource details
Title Solar and Lunar Eclipse
Teaching approach
Learning Objectives

By the end of the activity students should be able to understand how a mathematical software modelling and visualisation tool such as GeoGebra can be used to explore 'real life' mathematics. For GCSE year 7 science students, teachers can use it as an example or a visual aid to teach their lessons.

Format / structure

wiki page with downloadable .doc version

Age of students / grade
Table of contents
Additional Resources/material needed
Useful information
Related ORBIT Wiki Resources

This activity was a result of the GeoGebra STEM Exploration umbrella activity which asked students to develop 'real world' GeoGebra mathematical modeling applications which reach out to a wide range of users both students and teachers. It is described in their own words.

Other (e.g. time frame)
Files and resources to view and download

This is the accompanying GeoGebra application. It was produced by students and can be used to further stimulate new students:

A table of planetary data can be found at the National Earth Science Teachers Association (USA) website: Windows To The Universe: