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Weekend Science Fun: Lunar Eclipse Coming

Have you heard there's going to be a lunar eclipse on Monday December 20, 2010 - Tuesday December 21, 2010?

The exact times are Monday December 20, 2010 starting at 11:33 p.m. through Tuesday December 21, 2010 at 3:01 a.m. AZ time (that is 1:33-5:01 a.m. Eastern)

It's a great learning opportunity for your children.

There are related activities for kids and information from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The movie that shows how solar and lunar eclipses occur is helpful. You might want to build your own model.

NASA Science has general information plus links.

Mr. Eclipse has extensive, detailed information about the lunar eclipse, as well as some spectacular photographs.

If the weather is clear, try looking at the moon tonight. If you have binoculars or a small telescope, try those too.

The most obvious features on the face of the moon are the dark circles of impact craters, where meteorites and other space debris have hit the surface. It might be time to re-visit an old standby activity. Your children can create and study craters with a few simple ingredients.

Gather:

  • two types of flour of different colors (check in the back of the cupboard for something that has gone stale)
  • a large cake pan or other deep pan (preferably unbreakable) or even a shoe box
  • hard rubber balls or round rocks to act as meteorites
  • stable step stool, stepladder or chair (optional)

Note: Often instructions for this activity (like the video below) use cocoa powder, but I found that can be expensive. A whole wheat flour and a white flour will work just as well. You can even see the results with one type of flour, although perhaps not quite a clearly.

Fill a large cake pan or other deep pan (preferably unbreakable) halfway with colorful flour, such as whole wheat or corn meal. Then gently add a layer (an inch or so) of white flour over the entire surface.

Take the flour container outside, if possible, and set it on a low, flat surface. Have your kids stand on a secure chair or stepladder and drop various round objects into the flour. The results should be some interesting craters and splash patterns, which are the patterns of debris shot out of the crater with impact.

You should see something like this:

Any ideas why the moon has so many visible craters where the earth does not? There are actually at least two reasons. See if you can think of them.

Check Enchanted Learning for more details about lunar craters.

Let us know if you get to see the lunar eclipse.

For more information on astronomy, try:

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