Education and
Public Engagement
at the Lunar and Planetary Institute
Explore! Marvel Moon

Moon in Action


In this 30-minute activity, children, ages 7 and up, and their families go outside on a clear evening and view the sky to see the Moon for themselves. Using sky charts and other resources, and possibly in partnership with a local astronomical society, children navigate the Moon's impact craters, flat plains (maria), and mountains with the naked eye and binoculars or telescopes.

This outdoor night viewing can be combined with the indoor stations activity, Growing Up Moon. In addition, Mirror Moon offers a quick demonstration about how the Moon reflects sunlight; it is most effective when conducted in a dark area — such as at a table set up off to the side and near the telescopes!

What's the Point?


Facility needs:

For each group of approximately 20 visitors:

The Modern Moon: A Personal View. Charles Wood, 2003, Sky
Publishing Corporation, ISBN: 0933346999.
The perfect companion to lunar telescope viewing. Wood works his way across the lunar surface, identifying features of scientific importance and the people involved in unraveling their story.

For each child:

For the facilitator:


Facilitator's Notes: Refer to An Earth–based Tour of the Moon as a guide to major features on the Moon. Observing the Moon while its near side is only partially lit, as in the crescent and first quarter phases, causes the terrain to cast longer shadows. The shadows make the features much easier to see! A full Moon is unpleasantly dazzling to view through a telescope — even the crescent Moon is bright.

Telescopes are not necessary to enjoy the Moon. The basalt-filled impact basins and plains — maria — and ancient lunar highlands are easily seen with the naked eye. Binoculars reveal the Apennine Mountains, Copernicus Crater, and Tycho Crater.

The Moon may appear "flipped" — as in a mirror image — through some kinds of telescopes.


1. Invite the children and their families to line up in front of the different telescopes.

Provide some information about NASA's current robotic explorations: The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is currently orbiting the Moon and collecting detailed information about the Moon's environment. The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL, is scheduled to launch and begin orbiting the Moon in 2011. It will collect data to help scientists better understand the Moon's interior. Later, in 2013, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, will orbit the Moon in 2013. Its main objective is to characterize the atmosphere and lunar dust environment.

2. Ask the children to describe what they see:

3. Have the families consider what it would be like if there was no Moon.

4. Invite the children to use the pencils or crayons to record their evening's discoveries on their Moon in Action comic panels. Direct them to the tables set up for this purpose. Instruct the children to add the Moon in Action comic panel as the next page in the Marvel Moon comic book by clipping the book together at the upper left corner.


Invite the children to return for the next activities, where they will further consider the question: What if there was no Moon? They will begin by exploring how Earth would be different without it in Earth's Bright Neighbor.

At the beginning of the next children's activity, invite the children to report on what they saw. Did they discover any features on the Moon that they had not noticed before?