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SOL 4.7 ~ Earth, Moon and Sun Relationships

The student will investigate and understand the relationships among the Earth, moon, and sun.
Key concepts include:
  • the motions of the Earth, moon, and sun (SOL 4.7a)
  • the causes for the Earth’s seasons and phases of the moon  (SOL 4.7b)
  • the relative size, position, age, and makeup of the Earth, moon, and sun  (SOL 4.7c)
  • historical contributions in understanding the Earth-moon-sun system  (SOL 4.7d) 
What is revolution and rotation?
Revolution and rotation are the terms we use to describe the motions of the earth and moon.  

Revolution is the movement of the earth in an orbit around the sun.  
The Earth completes one revolution around the sun every 365 days. 
The moon revolves around the Earth about once every month.  

Rotation is the turning of Earth on its axis, which causes day and night.

What causes Earth to experience seasons?
Earth is slightly tilted on its axis.  This tilt causes Earth to experience seasons as it revolves around the sun.  

For parts of each year one area of the Earth receives more direct energy from sunlight.  This time of year is summer.  Six months later, when the Earth has moved to the opposite side of its orbit and the other area of receives more direct sunlight and experiences summer.  The area that is not receiving direct sunlight experiences winter.

What causes the phases of the moon?
The phases of the moon are caused by its position relative to the Earth and the sun.

Current Moon Phase 

What are the phases of the moon?
The phases of the moon include:  

new moon 
the entire half of the moon facing Earth is dark
we cannot see the moon from Earth because the side of the moon that is facing us is not being lit by the sun)

waxing crescent moon:  
as light begins to illuminate the moon, a small “sliver” can be seen on the right
the lighted part is starting to get bigger
first quarter moon:  
half of the part of the moon facing Earth is lighted on the right side
waxing gibbous:
three fourths of the moon facing the Earth is lighted on the right side - it is nearly a full moon
full moon:  
an entire half of the moon facing Earth is lighted
(it looks like a fully lit circle)
waning gibbous:
three fourths of the moon facing the Earth is lighted on the left side - it is just past a full moon and is starting to get darker
last quarter moon:  
half of the part of the moon facing Earth is lighted on the left side
waning crescent moon:  
as the amount of light on the moon decreases, we again see a small sliver but this time it is on the left

Phases of the Moon in Action

Moon Phases

Moon Exploration
See if you can find out what the moon looked like when you were born!

How can we describe the basic characteristics of the Earth, moon, and sun, such as their relative size, position, age, and makeup?
The Earth is one of nine planets that revolve around the sun and make up the solar system.  The Earth is the third planet from the sun and is one of the four planets make mostly of rock.  It is about 150 million kilometers from the sun.  The Earth has an active surface that is constantly changing.  Unlike the other four planets closest to the sun, it has large amounts of life-supporting water and an oxygen-rich atmosphere.  The Earth’s protective atmosphere blocks out most of the sun’s damaging rays.

The moon is a small rocky satellite of Earth, having about one-quarter the diameter of the Earth and one-eighth its mass.  It has extremes of temperature, (virtually) no atmosphere and water, and no life.


Our Moon


The sun is an average-size yellow star of hydrogen gas that serves as the center of our solar system and as our source of heat and light.  It is about 110 times the diameter of Earth and is approximately 4.6 billion years old.

Our Sun



What are some historical contributions that have helped us understand the Earth, moon, and sun?
Our understanding of the solar system has changed from Aristotle’s and Ptolemy’s Earth-centered view to the sun-centered model of Copernicus.  Galileo contributed to the study of space by inventing the telescope.

The NASA Apollo missions added a great deal to our understanding of the moon.

Our understanding of the sun, moon, and the solar system continues to change with new scientific discoveries.

Aristotle - 370 BC      Earth-centered View

Earth is the center of the universe.
The earth is inside of a giant ball that turns 
      and the things in the sky are attached to the ball.
The earth doesn't move.

Ptolemy - 100 AD       Earth-centered View

The earth is spherical (round) and the objects in space 
      orbit the earth.
The earth doesn't move.

Copernicus - 1480       Sun-centered View

The earth is spherical (round).
The earth spins on its axis
The earth and the other planets revolve around the sun.

Galileo - 1575

He proves that Copernicus' theory is correct.
Builds a telescope to study the moon.
Discovers that the moon is not flat - 
      it has mountains and craters.

Review Activities

Earth's Tilt and Season Rags to Riches  ~  Moon and Earth Terms  ~  Space Pop-ups

Order the Moon Phases

Solar System Quiz #1  ~  Solar System Quiz #2

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