Teaching Children to Observe the Moon with a Small Telescope

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The Moon is Earth’s little sister, showing us various phases while at the same time changing the ocean’s tides. But the Moon is also covered with craters, vast mountain ranges, and valleys just out of eye’s reach. With a small telescope, all these structures appear and children will remember them forever!

Phases of the Moon

The Moon has many phases – from New to Full.

The new Moon is the point where there is no sunlight shining on the surface of the Moon facing Earth. Normally, the Moon cannot be seen when it is new unless there is sunlight reflecting from Earth to the Moon. If this happens, it is called “Earthshine”. Earthshine is normally noticed when the Moon is between new and waxing crescent (between new and first quarter).


The first quarter of the Moon is also sometimes called a “half moon”. This is the point when half of the Moon is visible while it is on its way to full. Waxing gibbous is a three-quarter Moon and the full Moon follows this phase.

Waning gibbous is the point where the full Moon is working its way back to a new Moon and also shows three-quarters of the Moon – just before the third quarter. Finally, waning crescent can be seen just before the Moon is new again.

Small Telescopes

Any small telescope of even the slightest quality can be used to observe the Moon. A pair of binoculars can also be used to view the Moon. While the telescope will likely show more detail of the Moon, a pair of binoculars might be easier for small children to use to view the Moon for the first time.

The two most popular telescopes are reflectors and refractors. Reflectors basically use a mirror to “magnify” and a reflector uses a lens. Either of these telescopes is perfect for viewing the Moon.

Most telescopes will have a variation of eyepieces that are interchangeable with the telescope. They will normally be identified by their size – in millimeters. The smaller the millimeter (or focal length) the more magnification they produce. More magnification is not necessary to view celestial objects such as the Moon. The more magnification used; the “fuzzier” the view is likely to be. Perform a few tests with the eyepieces to determine the best view for the telescope being used.

Observing the Moon

The Moon is best observed when it is not full. The reason is, the full Moon is very bright and small details are often “flooded” by the bright light reflected from the Moon. Between the waxing crescent and first quarter; and third quarter and waning crescent are often (but not always) the best times to view the Moon.

Observing the Moon’s terminator (the point where light meets dark) will often show more detail. At this location, shadows produced by deep craters and mountain ranges can easily be observed.

While there are thousands of craters on the moon, ejection debris can be observed from some of the larger ones. These are some of the most interesting craters!

Projects for Children

There are many fun and exciting projects that children can do while observing the Moon.

– Identifying craters: with a standard “Moon Atlas”, children can pick out specific craters they would like to identify. Remembering the names of craters and trying to find them at a later point of time can be fun and a real challenge for children (and adults too!)

– Identifying mountain ranges: with the same Moon atlas, mountain ranges can also be identified and observed. These too can be a challenge to find and observe.

– Moon sketching: by far, drawing sketches of the moon is the most fun. Picking out sections of the moon and drawing them is always fun for children. Many children and adults find this as a wonderful hobby.

– Lunar lander sites: While the actual lunar landers cannot be seen, their landing sites can be found and observed. By learning the lunar landing sites, children will more easily remember the names of the lunar landers that visited the Moon.

With a little help from an adult, children quickly learn how to use a telescope or any activity for that matter. You can teach your kids anything at a young age. The most important thing that you can teach them is to dream big. Parents should also participate in different activities with their kids. You should try coloring pages with your kids and you will have a time of your life. If you don’t like kids coloring pages then try adult coloring pages This will bring you closer to them and you will make amazing memories along the way. 

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