Find the Moon in the Daytime

Even many adults do not realize that the moon is often visible in the daytime. The moon is visible sometime during the day for most of the month, except near new moon, and right at full moon. This is a good short project for the whole class since you take the children outside for a little while.

Start by explaining the phases of the moon and the position of the moon with respect to the sun for each phase. A diagram like the one below is in many science books.

Viewed from Earth, the Moon's phases look like:

At New Moon, the dark side of the Moon faces the Earth, and the Moon is near the Sun in the sky, and therefore invisible.

You can illustrate these relationships using a lighted bare light bulb for the Sun, a globe of the Earth, and a white ball (baseball, golfball, styrafoam ball) for the Moon.

To observe the moon in the morning, you need to pick a day of the month when the moon's phase is close to third quarter. Many regular calendars show the moon's phases, or see our web calendar. At third quarter the moon will be leading the sun across the sky by ninety degrees, so in the morning when the sun is in the eastern part of the sky, the moon will be in the western part of the sky. The moon looks dim and weak during the daylight hours, and is sometimes hard to find in the endless blue sky at first. Once one person spots it and points, it is easy for the others to see it. Make it a game to see who can find it first; kids have sharp eyes.
Two or three days after third quarter, the moon will higher in the sky, closer to the sun, and a thinner crescent, more difficult to spot. Two or three days before third quarter will be in the waning gibbous phase, and lower in the sky further from the sun. The moon is brighter in this phase, but if it is too low in the sky, again it may be difficult to spot.

This is also a good project to illustrate angles in the sky. Have a child point one arm at the Sun and the other at the Moon. At last quarter the arms should make a right angle. Even young kids can recognize an angle "like a box". Before last quarter the angle will be obtuse; after last quarter, it will be acute.

Back to K-6 Activities