October 22, 2008
The moon is the earth's only natural satellite. It is nearly 239,000 miles from earth, and makes one full orbit around the earth every 29.5 days. As the moon travels around the earth, it enters a series of phases, which change the amount of light reflected off its surface and how it looks from earth. It can be seen on clear days or nights from anywhere on earth during all its phases, except the "new" moon. (See below to find out why!)
During autumn, there are two special moons that are legendary. Usually, the moon rises 50 minutes later each night during its full cycle. But the harvest moon and the hunter's moon both rise approximately 30 minutes later from one night to the next. The harvest moon is the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox (when the day and night are of equal length), and it appears much brighter and bigger than other moons because of the seasonal tilt of the earth. Years ago, farmers depended on the harvest moon for the extra light it provided as they tried to harvest their crops before winter.
The hunter's moon is the first full moon after the harvest moon, and usually occurs in October. Legend has it that hunters could continue to track their prey well into the night because of the perceived brightness of the hunter's moon.
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Going through a Phase
There are eight different moon phases: new moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full moon, waning gibbous, last quarter and waning crescent. The shape of the moon during these phases appears to change because the sun is illuminating different parts of the moon that are facing us. As the moon revolves around the earth, we see different parts of the side of the moon that is facing the sun. Try this demonstration with two friends or family members, a softball and a flashlight to learn about the phases of the moon.
On a dark night have one person hold the flashlight and stand near a garage or wall or your house. This person is the sun. The second person will stand a few feet away and be the earth. The third person is the moon and carries the softball.
Have the moon stand directly between the earth and the sun. Turn on the flashlight so that the light shines directly on the softball. The earth will be looking at the unlit side of the moon (new moon). Now the moon moves to the left side of the earth. See how the first quarter or half moon is now visible. Next, the moon stands in back of the earth, representing a full moon. Lastly, the moon moves to the right of the earth to show the last quarter of the moon. Make sure that the sun and the earth remain stationary while the moon is rotating around the earth.
Many years ago, people didn't have watches or clocks to help them tell time. They created a sundial that used the sun as a clock. Using a 6" x 12" piece of plywood, draw or trace a perfect semicircle from one corner to the other along the long side. Next, draw a straight vertical line through the center of the semicircle.
To make the sundial's hand (called the gnomon), cut a triangle out of a piece of thin cardboard by marking 6" along the bottom and 6" up the side. Cut diagonally between the two marks to make the triangle. Fold one side of the triangle a half-inch to make a flap, and glue the flap onto your base, so that the crease of the fold sits on the center line.
Place the sundial in a spot that gets sunshine most of the day. The gnomon must point north in order to tell time correctly. On a clear night, you can find north by pointing the tip of the triangle toward the North Star (the star that is "pouring" out of the Big Dipper). To make the dial, go outside every hour during daylight and make a mark where the gnomon's shadow falls on the base, until all the hours between sunrise and sunset are marked. Make sure you leave your sundial in the same place, and use it when you are outside to tell what time it is.
Travel to the Moon
Even though the moon is thousands of miles away, you can actually explore the moon pretty easily. On a clear night with a full moon, take some binoculars and find a comfortable place to sit. Use the binoculars to look closely at the moon. Do you see craters, lines and flat plains? These features were all caused by the impact of meteorites striking the moon.
Check out Conservationist for Kids for more information and activities!
Upcoming DEC Events
Make Your Own Mask!
Saturday, October 25 at 2:00 PM
Masks, especially those inspired by animals, have been used by people all over the world in ceremonies to conjure or ward off spirits, or insure success in hunting or warfare. Make your own mask out of simple or recycled materials, just in time for Halloween! Please call to register: 845-831-8780 ext 304.
Halloween Open House
Saturday, October 25 from 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Bats and spiders and bugs! A family-oriented exploration of the nature of Halloween. Come see and touch (if you dare) skeletons and skulls; meet live reptiles and amphibians.
Saturday, November 1 at 2:00 PM
Join us on a walk to learn about the fascinating, weirdly shaped insect houses called galls.
Halloween Howl Prowl
Friday, October 24 from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM
Come join us for a howling good time and start Halloween early. Cost: $2.00/person, $5.00/family, children under 5 free. Call to register: 518-456-0655.
Legends and Lore of the Albany Pine Bush
Saturday, October 25 from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Fraught with tales of burglary, ghosts, fire, and more the human history of the Pine Bush weaves between fact and fiction, imagination and reality. This program is recommended for ages 10 and over. Cost: $2.00/person, $5.00/family, children under 5 free. Call to register: 518-456-0655.
Central New York
Saturday, October 25 at 11:00 AM
Join us at Rogers and make all sorts of creatures out of the colorful leaves you see on the ground while we learn a little bit about fall trees. Please call to register: 607-674-4017.
Saturday, October 25 at 7:00 PM
Join guest speaker David Terrazas as he takes us on a journey far, far away to the awesome constellations of our galaxy while staying right here at Rogers.
Saturday, November 1 at 11:00 AM
Take a look around for nature's autumn bounty during this walk. You might be able to spot the wild foods that will help all kinds of animals survive the winter, and maybe you'll even catch a glimpse of the animals themselves!
Western New York
Movie Matinee - Fly Away Home
Saturday, November 1 at 3:00 PM
Join us for an afternoon viewing of the Oscar nominated movie "Fly Away Home" (Rated PG). A thirteen-year-old girl finds renewed happiness when she adopts an orphaned flock of baby geese and, later, teaches them to migrate using an ultralight aircraft. Advance registration is required. Call 716-683-5959.
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