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Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

← Activities for the Total Solar Eclipse

Light, Shadows, and Reflectivity

An eclipse is an interplay between light and shadows. In a solar eclipse, the Moon's shadow falls on the Earth. In a lunar eclipse, the Earth's shadow falls on the Moon. The following activities encourage visitors to make connections between personal experiences of shadows and light and transfer those concepts to the Sun-Earth-Moon system.

Mirror Moon

Mirror Moon

In this activity, participants confront the misconception that the Moon produces its own light. With only tennis balls, aluminum foil, and a flashlight, learners explore reflectivity (albedo).

  • Source: Lunar and Planetary Institute
  • Target Audience: Ages 8 - 13
  • Important Concepts: Albedo, light, shadows, reflectivity
  • Suggested Modifications: During a total solar eclipse, the moon blocks the sun's light from reaching Earth. If the Moon produced its own light, it would not get as dark during a total solar eclipse.

Eye on the Sky: What Makes Shadows?


This activity is ideal for outdoor events, particularly those where participants will spend a long amount of time. In this activity, learners trace their shadows and return some time later to observe the changes.

  • Source: University of California, Berkeley
  • Target Audience: Elementary and up
  • Important Concepts: Shadows, motion of the Earth and Moon, apparent motion of the Sun, light
  • Suggested Modifications: Draw the connection between this activity and the eclipse by asking participants how they think shadows are important in the eclipse. In a total solar eclipse, the Moon casts a shadow on the Earth. If you are inside the umbra of that shadow, you will see a total solar eclipse. If you are inside the penumbra, you will see a partial eclipse. As participants learned in the activity, because of the Earth and Moon's movements, the time spent in the shadow is very short.
Goddard Space Flight Center