Look Up, It’s the Moon

Two images of the moon showing their relative size at apogee and perigee.

Take the kids outside this evening. Tonight’s moon will be the biggest of the year, 17,000 miles closer to us than its average distance. It will be 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than usual. Catch it rising at sunset when an illusion makes it appear larger than normal. To quickly understand apogee and perigee, check out this image.

Got that? It really is bigger and brighter, and the infamous near-the-horizon illusion will amplify its size even further. That’s moonrise at sunset anywhere in the world; we all experience it the same way.

Singing Laurie Berkner’s Moon, Moon, Moon, and hanging a moon night light is interesting… but bundle up your toddler and look at the night sky once in a while. This is your window of opportunity. By age 5 you’ll be getting questions too complex for you to continue passing yourself off as an astrophysicist.

You can, however, skim Wikipedia’s moon page for some factoids. For example, the dark areas of the moon are lunar mare, mostly flat plains of volcanic rock. Toddler translation: the dark spots are low flat areas with dark rock. The bright areas are hills and mountains (close enough).

Try taking your child(ren) out for a sunrise once in a while too.

I’m gladly accepting suggestions for good toddler books about astronomy. My penchant for garage sales has left me with some very nice books for the elementary school era and one that discusses an exciting new spaceship being built that will be called the Space Shuttle. There are artist’s renderings and everything.

A newer book that caught my eye at a friend’s house was Planets: A Solar System Stickerbook. The mother (a meteorologist) pointed out that it’s the only children’s book she has found that includes all of a planet’s moons in each illustration.  It’s not a starting book for a toddler, but as a supplement the book is great (if you hide the stickers).

Have any book suggestions? Really taking your kid out tonight? Share how it turns out. We’re getting rain this evening, but we saw the moon last night (through our skylight!) and will catch it again sometime this weekend.


4 Responses to “Look Up, It’s the Moon”

  1. gertie says:

    Thanks for the heads-up. The two year old is really into the moon, so we’ll be taking her out to look at it tonight.

    My favorite kid’s astronomy book is The Zoo in the Sky, although I’ll admit I haven’t actually used it to try to teach kids constellations. I was working in a bookstore several years ago when it was first published, and fell in love with the frame-worthy illustrations. I gave a copy to every kid I knew, and the feedback I got was all positive. I’ll be buying my own daughter a copy for Christmas.

    December 12th, 2008 at 2:02 pm

  2. PsychMamma says:

    We will definitely take J out tonight! She’s fascinated with the moon and always watches for it when we’re out at night.

    We love Usborne books and they have a great title “Sun, Moon and Stars” that J already likes us to read to her. It’s geared for 6-8 y/o, but J is almost 3 and loves it. We edit it a bit for her, but it’s easy to do and it has great pictures and descriptions. Here’s a link:


    We also love “Astronomy” (also Usborne) which is more of an encyclopedia. It has fantastic internet links (child friendly) that include activities and additional information. It’s listed for kids 8 and up, but, again, J loves looking at it with us and talking about it, and she’ll grow into it. It’s a great investment. Here’s the link:


    Happy moon-gazing!

    December 12th, 2008 at 2:55 pm

  3. Nancy says:

    Well that explains why the moon looked so big and bright tonight! We weren’t out looking for it but my 5 yo pointed out that the moon was “spinning.” There were some light, fast-moving clouds that I guess made it look like it was spinning. And then my husband noticed that the moon looked big. Since I was driving I didn’t get a good look at it.

    We did both comment that the full moon explains why all the crazies were out on the road…

    My son loves “Papa Please Get the Moon for Me,” an Eric Carle masterpiece complete with a fold-out moon.

    December 12th, 2008 at 6:36 pm

  4. Marvin says:

    Cool! I grew up in the mountains of the Philippines and, yes, we did watch the moon a lot (coz there wasn’t much to do in the evenings, besides we enjoyed the absence of glare).

    Recently we watched the moon “smile” with Jupiter and Venus. I understand what you saw in the west was a “frown.”

    Anyhow, did you watch it too?

    We had a picture of the moon “smiling” here…

    December 12th, 2008 at 8:01 pm

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