Chapter 4 Earth, Moon, and Sky
Collaborative Group Activities
- Have your group brainstorm about other ways (besides the Foucault pendulum) you could prove that it is our Earth that is turning once a day, and not the sky turning around us. (Hint: How does the spinning of Earth affect the oceans and the atmosphere?)
- What would the seasons on Earth be like if Earth’s axis were not tilted? Discuss with your group how many things about life on Earth you think would be different.
- After college and graduate training, members of your U.S. student group are asked to set up a school in New Zealand. Describe some ways your yearly school schedule in the Southern Hemisphere would differ from what students are used to in the Northern Hemisphere.
- During the traditional U.S. Christmas vacation weeks, you are sent to the vicinity of the South Pole on a research expedition (depending on how well you did on your astronomy midterm, either as a research assistant or as a short-order cook!). Have your group discuss how the days and nights will be different there and how these differences might affect you during your stay.
- Discuss with your group all the stories you have heard about the full moon and crazy behavior. Why do members of your group think people associate crazy behavior with the full moon? What other legends besides vampire stories are connected with the phases of the Moon? (Hint: Think Professor Lupin in the Harry Potter stories, for example.)
- Your college town becomes the founding site for a strange new cult that worships the Moon. These true believers gather regularly around sunset and do a dance in which they must extend their arms in the direction of the Moon. Have your group discuss which way their arms will be pointing at sunset when the Moon is new, first quarter, full, and third quarter.
- Changes of the seasons play a large part in our yearly plans and concerns. The seasons have inspired music, stories, poetry, art, and much groaning from students during snowstorms. Search online to come up with some examples of the seasons being celebrated or overcome in fields other than science.
- Use the information in Appendix H and online to figure out when the next eclipse of the Sun or eclipse of the Moon will be visible from where your group is going to college or from where your group members live. What time of day will the eclipse be visible? Will it be a total or partial eclipse? What preparations can you make to have an enjoyable and safe eclipse experience? How do these preparations differ between a solar and lunar eclipse?
- On Mars, a day (often called a sol) is 24 hours and 40 minutes. Since Mars takes longer to go around the Sun, a year is 668.6 sols. Mars has two tiny moons, Phobos and Deimos. Phobos, the inner moon, rises in the west and sets in the east, taking 11 hours from moonrise to the next moonrise. Using your calculators and imaginations, have your group members come up with a calendar for Mars. (After you do your own, and only after, you can search online for the many suggestions that have been made for a martian calendar over the years.)