Over the Moon
International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN) may seem a bit silly. I mean, it’s hard to be outside at night without glancing at our lunar neighbor. Is it from primal instinct or an ingrained childhood habit that we get after reading or listening to the children’s book, Goodnight, Moon, a thousand times? Who can say? With the exception of the new moon, it’s easy to spot this ball of rock in the sky and no one ever cautions us that we’ll go blind looking at it. So maybe we take our moon for granted. Although, if we’re being honest, we need to admit that it was the real “star” of last summer’s solar eclipse.
International Observe the Moon Night
That’s where InOMN comes along. It’s an “annual worldwide public event that encourages observation, appreciation, and understanding of our Moon and its connection to NASA planetary science and exploration.” InOMN also encourages people to explore personal and cultural connections with the Moon. In 2017, InOMN will take place on Saturday, October 28. But before this event was on NASA’s calendar, people celebrated similar traditions elsewhere. For example, the Japanese moon festival, Tsukimi, is thought to be an outgrowth of a Chinese autumn harvest celebration that was first observed hundreds of years ago.These occasions are typically timed with a full moon.
Chicago hosts an unscientific (and less sedate) public celebration of the full moon several times each summer. But InOMN will take place under a waxing gibbous moon.
Phases of the Moon
Waxing, waning gibbous, crescent. NASA has a Dial-A-Moon web app that lets users observe the shape of the moon at a time of their choosing. Even better, encourage students to observe on their own with these handy record-keeping sheets. I recently shared a sweet way to teach kids to identify the phases of the moon with cookies. When it comes to food for a celebration of the moon, though, the obvious treat is mooncakes. These can typically be found at Asian bakeries.
Celebrate with Music
Given that InOMN is a cultural event, it needs a soundtrack. NASA has just the thing: a playlist dedicated to the moon. Okay, it’s actually a social-media friendly infographic. Still, it would be fun to see what your students can add to the list.
Celebrate with Trivia
Waste in Space
When they were young, my sons were fascinated with all things scatalogical. They taught me about the bags of poop that astronauts left behind on the moon. (The crew needed room for moon rocks and samples.) Managing human waste is a priority for manned space missions. NASA even held a Space Poop Challenge that "sought solutions to address how to collect and route human waste away from the body while wearing a spacesuit in microgravity for up to six days." It might sound gross, but if there's a young scientist looking for a problem to solve, there it is. Plus, the Young Scientist Challenge offers better prizes than NASA.
Next InOMN, in Space!
Earlier this year, SpaceX announced plans to send two tourists to a trip around the moon (and back). Perhaps by the time today’s students are grown, InOMN will involve more than looking up at the moon; they'll take a trip to see it instead.