The Purpose:
You will examine “first-hand” two of the astronomical phenomena we see most every day that we are outside. This will require you to include two of your own original photographs of a sunset or sunrise — using the camera on your phone, or a borrowed phone or camera if you prefer — and also to take two photos of the Moon on two different days that are at least several days apart.
You will apply your knowledge of light from the video game and additional background reading (in Canvas) to understand the colors of the sunset or sunrise. You will also answer some questions about the timing of the Sun rising and setting, depending on the season.
You will also provide a diagram showing the positions of the Moon, Earth, and Sun for the phase of the Moon depicted in your two photographs, and answer some questions about moon phases.
Your Task:
Begin with the background reading, on sunsets/sunrises and phases of the Moon, which is available in the section right after this one on Canvas. You may also want to review the sections on Seasons and on Phases of the Moon in the University of Mars video game as you work on this project. To replay those sections if you have already finished them, open your game and press your [P] key to open the in-game “Pause menu”; in that menu, click on “Repeat a Lesson” and then choose those topics from the menu. To get out of the review mode, when done, press the [P] key again, select “Repeat a Lesson” again, and then click on “Exit Repeat.”
Next, you should decide on a location — considering a nice foreground, background, etc. — for stunning and interesting sunset (or sunrise) photos. One of these photos (but not both) can be from the past, if you have an old favorite already that you would like to show. The other photo should be taken in the present class term.
Also: for one of the photos — one from the current semester — we ask that you take a second photo of the same general scene but with yourself in it. This could be a quick selfie, or a photo with your hand in it if you would prefer your face not be — just something to prove that you were there; this picture could be taken by someone else, too, if at least you are in it somewhere. Again: this is just an extra “proof” photo to go along with one of your two “main” photos (so there will really be three, in total).
Be sure to note the times and days your photos were taken, and where you were.
You should also photograph the Moon on two different days (separated by at least 3 or 4 days from each other, or longer, so that the Moon’s phases should have changed visibly) and note the day and time for each. It is entirely understandable that photos of the Moon often do not turn out well unless you happen to have access to a stabilizing device (tripod), zoom or telephoto lenses, or specialized filters. Please do not worry if your Moon photo does not turn out clear or detailed enough to quite tell what the Moon phase is; just do the best you can, and make a note for each photo what the phase of the Moon was (as visible to your eyes), even if the photo itself is unclear.
You will need to include your photographs — five in all: two featuring sunsets (or sunrises, or one of each, as you prefer), one “proof” photo from the same location as one of the previous two, and two photos of the Moon taken on different days — in a single document.
In that document you are also expected to write a little about your sunrise/sunset photos (time, date, location), and explain some of the physics at work in each, applying knowledge from the background reading — e.g., why sunsets have such colors, and the timing of them. In the same document, accompanying your Moon phases photos should be some basic information like time/date/location. Then below this, include a simple drawing — like the Moon phases diagram in the background reading — in which you highlight or point out where the Moon actually was on the two dates you took photographs of it.
Your writing in this document should be at least 300 words in total. Be sure to review the Instructions on the project submissions page, for more specifics on the information you are expected to include; the “Checklist” on that page should help.
What to Turn in, and When:
Your single document — containing your (5) photos, Moon phase diagram, and all the writing to accompany them — should be submitted by Tuesday 31 May 2022.
You are free to go ahead right away and keep an eye out for a nice sunrise or sunset to get a photo, or dig through your older photos for one you would like to use. Keep track of the upcoming weather and sky conditions to try and get your sunrise/sunset and Moon photos when opportunities arise.
Even if you get all your photos taken care of early, you may want to consider holding off on completing all the written portions of this assignment at least until you have completed through the Light lesson in the University of Mars game (the Seasons and Moon phases sections come earlier than that), if you want a better understanding of the science in how these phenomena work. The background reading helps, but the game gives more hands-on application of the principles.
Include your photos and Moon phases diagram in a single document along with written explanations of them that is at least 300 words long (total, not for each photo or section). You might use MS Word or Mac’s Pages, or Google Docs, etc., to create your document, but what you turn in should be a single PDF file.
Simply insert the required images into your document (copy/paste, or use an “Edit>Insert” tool within the program, and then write your statements above or beneath the photos in each section (sunset/sunrise, and Moon phases). After you are finished you may need to select an option under the “File” drop-down menu and “Export” to PDF; if no such option appears, you might instead try to “print” the document, and then instead of choosing a physical printer there may be an option to “Print to PDF,” which will allow you to save the PDF file on your computer instead of creating a hard copy. We ask for PDF so that your instructor(s) can read your project, no matter what type of computer you or they are using.
CHECKLIST for the contents of your document:
Two (2) original photographs of sunsets (or sunrises, or one of each), by you. One of these can be an older photograph from before this Summer; at least one has to have been taken during this class term.
Accompanying one of your original photos (one from the current class term — this Summer session), another photo with you (or at least your hand, or something) in it to demonstrate you were there
Two photographs of the Moon, taken on different days. Please do not worry about the photo quality; I know it is hard to get with most cameras.
You do not need to include an extra “I was there” proof photo for the Moon phases part
One diagram (your own) of Moon phases (example (Links to an external site.)), in which you also highlight or point out where the Moon actually was on the two separate days you took photos of it
At-least 300-word statement; you can break this up across the couple sections — sunsets/sunrises, Moon phases
In the sunrises/sunsets portion of the statement, include the following:
time, date, and location for each photo; if you are using an older photo for one of them and do not recall the exact date, try to remember what general season it was
are the photos of sunrises or sunsets, or one of each
a short discussion of scientific reasons for the colors in your sunset (or sunrise); the background reading can help with this
for each photo, give a prediction on whether the sun will rise or set earlier or later the next day after the photo was taken (the background reading can help with this, too); also, explain why you make this prediction (hint: consider the time of year)
In the Moon phases portion of the statement, include the following:
time and date each photo was taken, and your location
what phase the Moon was in, in each photo; it may or may not necessarily be clear from the photos alone, so please write it out as well
At the time you took your photo, was the Moon just rising, almost setting, or high overhead?

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