Some students think that people on opposite sides of the Earth experience different phases of the moon

Earth and Space

Misconception RESEARCH REVIEW

Students may think that moon phases are caused by the Earth's rotation.

Diagnostic Resources

The following worksheets may help to identify whether students hold this particular misconception.

Resources to address this

  • Phases of the Moon  (11-14)

    Ref - SPT ES04 TA03

    The part of the Moon that we can see is the fraction of the side that is lit up, which is visible from Earth. Half of the Moon is always lit up, but how much of this we see depends on where the Moon is in its orbit. As the Moon travels around the Earth, the fraction first grows larger, until the Moon is full (directly opposite the Sun). The fraction then grows smaller again, until the Moon is on the same side of the Earth as the Sun.

    In the course of one night, the 24 hour spinning motion of the Earth takes us past one of these distinctive phases of the Moon, and as the month progresses (and the Moon moves farther around its orbit of the Earth) the observed phase gradually changes.

    View Resource

References

The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • Barnett, M. and Morran, J., () Addressing children's alternative frameworks of the Moon's phases and eclipses, International Journal of Science Education, 24 (8)

    859-879,

    https://doi.org/10.1080/09500690110095276.

    Review sheet

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