Some students observe clouds blocking parts of the Moon and use this as the basis for the different phases of the Moon 

Earth and Space


Resources to address this

  • Why does the Moon change?  (11-14)

    Ref - SPT ES04 TL06

    Wrong Track:The Moon changes shape because the clouds shade it and you only see the part which hasn't been shaded. The clouds might cover a bit of the Moon and the clouds move so it might get bigger or smaller, depending on how big the clouds are.

    Given the relative difficulty of the explanation for the phases of the Moon, don't be surprised when many pupils struggle to offer any ideas at all about what is happening. Thus pupils who suggest that it's something to do with clouds (see wrong tracks) may well be offering this in the absence of any other ideas.

    The response certainly does not mean that they are firmly committed to the explanation.

    View Resource


The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • Dunlop, J., () How children observe the universe, Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, 200, (17)


    Review sheet

  • Baxter, J., () Children's understanding of familiar astronomical events, International Journal of Science Education, 11 (5)


    Review sheet

  • Trundle, K.C., Atwood, R.K. and Christopher, J.E., () Preservice Elementary Teachers’ Conceptions of Moon Phases before and after Instruction, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39 (7)


    Review sheet

  • Slater, E. V., Morris, J. E., & McKinnon, D., () Astronomy alternative conceptions in preadolescent students in Western Australia, International Journal of Science Education, 40 (17)


    Review sheet

  • Trumper, R., () A cross-age study of junior high school students conceptions of basic astronomy concepts, International Journal of Science Education, 23 (11)

    1111- 1123.

    Review sheet

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