Sunday, December 11, 2011

Science Sunday - Science in The Sky

This month has been such an easy month for science around our house. All we've had to do is walk outside and look up, and then run inside to Google and find out what exactly we are seeing.

We noticed a planet near the moon, which turned out to be Jupiter, for instance...

...and one on the western horizon, just after sunset, which turned out to be Venus (sometimes the morning star, but this month playing the part of an evening star, just after sunset).

Speaking of the morning star, just for kicks, we read Isaiah 14:12-15, talking about the pride of the morning star, in reference to the king of Babylon - written as Lucifer - depending on which translation you're reading, and then I brought up a picture of the sun, also taken this week, just a few hours ahead of our Venus shot above, to bring home the message of the passage.

Then, we were back to science, learning from, that Venus and Jupiter are only two of the five planets visible in our December night sky, but we'd need to be up in the wee hours of the morning to spot Saturn, Mercury or Mars.

Of course, we were up early on Saturday, but our eyes were focused on the lunar eclipse...

...with the exception of one quick lesson about coronas, like the one we saw around the moon, earlier in the week, when we were looking up at Jupiter.

I had the children blow on the cold windows, to fog them up, then we looked through the fog, at the light of the moon, and a nearby streetlight, diffracted into slightly colorful coronas, just like what we had seen in the sky.

If I'm following all the online sources correctly, a lunar corona is created by moonlight being diffracted by water droplets in a thin cloud cloud layer, in much the same way as a rainbow formed during the day.

Lunar halos, which are also rings around the moon, but with a space between the ring, and edge of the moon, are made by a refraction (depending on the source you read, diffraction and refraction are used interchangeably, so take my words here with a grain of salt - I'm a mom not a scientist) of the moonlight through ice crystals in a high, cirrus cloud layer.

There is weather folklore attached to lunar halos that says, "ring around the moon, means snow soon." Apparently the presence of the cirrus clouds can be an indication of an approaching low pressure front, that can often raise the temperature, and bring rain, or snow.

I'm not sure if the folklore is true for coronas as well, but I do know two days after we spotted one around the moon, the sky was looking pretty cloudy...

...which by this point is how my head is feeling.

I was actually just taking the garbage out to the curb, when I spotted the corona around the moon, and alerted the children, who noticed the planet, which led us to, where we read about the other planets, and the lunar eclipse, as well as a few other events, such as a meteor shower, and comet approaching, that we'd still like to check out, not to mention all the constellations overhead, that have been larger than life on these clear winter nights.

So, if you're looking for some fun, and challenging science projects with your children, I'd suggest standing outside, and looking up - either that, or clicking over this week's Science Sunday link-up hosted by Adventures in Mommydom.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Phyllis said...

This is way cool. You may not be a scientist but you are a pretty awesome mom.

sarah in the woods said...

Just this morning the kids and I were talking about Jesus as the Bright and Morning Star from Rev. 22:16.
We totally missed the eclipse. Maybe next time.

Debbie said...

We were not able to see the eclipse due to clouds. It was quite a site though as it was ending as the West skies looked like a red sunset.

Ticia said...

We totally didn't see the eclipse this time, but I want to try another time.

I remember taking astronomy in high school and being amazed I could see some planets in the sky, and spending forever gazing up at it and figuring out stars.

Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

Thanks for the explanation about lunar corona. Anna asked about it the other day, now I don't need to google it myself :)