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Lunar Phases HTML5 Simulations

The simulations below were developed in collaboration with WGBH Boston for their Bringing the Universe to America's Classrooms collection with funding from NASA.

Simulation #1: Moon Phases Viewed from Earth

A simulation illustrating the motion of the sun and the moon in the southern sky for a mid-latitude in the northern hemisphere. It is useful for teaching that the sun can be seen only during the day and the moon can be seen either during the day or at night. It also shows the varying illumination on the lunar surface and the names of the phases.

It is targeted at grades K-2 students.

Lunar Phases Simulator 1
Links to this simulation and related materials on the PBS Learning Media web site (are coming soon):
Lunar Phases Simulator 1

Simulation #2: Moon Phases Viewed from Earth and Space

A simulation simultaneously illustrating the sky view (the sun and moon in the sky as seen from Earth) as well as the space view (the sun, Earth, and the orbiting moon in space). It illustrates how the geometry of the sun, the moon, and Earth gives rise to lunar phases.

It is targeted at grades 3-5 students.

Links to this simulation and related materials on the PBS Learning Media web site:

Simulation #3: Exploring the Rising and Setting Times of Moon Phases

A third simulation illustrating the space view of the sun-Earth-moon sytem and the appearance of the moon from Earth. It allows one to estimate the rising and setting times of a lunar phase as well as discuss the synchronous rotation of the moon.

This third simulation is targeted at grades 6-8 students.

Lunar Phases Simulator 3
Links to this simulation and related materials on the PBS Learning Media web site (are coming soon):

Misc HTML5 Simulations

HR Diagram PicThe Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram – A full-featured simulator for exploring the axes of the HR Diagram and the sizes of stars at various locations. It allows the user to plot the locations of the brightest stars in the sky as well as the nearest stars and answer the questions "Why are bright stars bright?" and "What is the most common type of star?".
Galaxies PicHubble's Law – A simple simulator for visualizing the expansion of the universe. Users can see vectors describing the velocities of galaxies and note that all galaxies are moving away from us. They can then change their perspective to another galaxy and note that Hubble's Law is seen from there as well.
Spin Sim Screnshot Pic Spin Simulator – A simple fun simulator for exploring look-back time concepts in the science fiction book Spin. It is designed to accompany a ClassAction Discussion Question.

NAAP Scale Height Lab

Scale Height Screenshot Pic A new lab is available on the NAAP side of the site on the scale height of planetary atmospheres. It is aimed at a higher level target audience than typical NAAP labs in that mathematical calculations are required. Although entirely programmed in JavaScript/HTML5 it is way too busy to work well on a mobile device and should be completed on a desktop, laptop, or tablet.


This work is supported by the National Science Foundation under grant #1044658.