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Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

Why Can I Sometimes See the Moon During the Day?

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

WHY? is our attempt to answer all the questions every little kid asksHave a question? Send it to why@mentalfloss.com.

The Sun comes out in the morning and sets at night, and then the Moon rises. Right? Then how come we can see the Moon during the day sometimes? 

The Moon and the Sun don’t actually take turns in the sky. The Earth orbits around the Sun, and the Moon orbits around the Earth. All three are spinning in space all the time. When the part of the Earth you're standing on faces the Sun, the sky is filled with sunlight. That's daytime. When your part of the planet is turned away from the Sun, that's night time. The Moon moves through the sky night and day. Much of the time, the sunlight is so bright, we can't see the Moon during the day.

The Sun is a very hot ball of gas. Like a fire or a light bulb, the Sun gives off both heat and light. But the Moon is made of rock, not gas, and it is not hot or bright at all. What we call moonlight is actually sunlight bouncing off the Moon, the same way that sunlight bounces off the reflectors on your bike. They look like they’re lighting up, but they’re really just passing the sunlight along.

How bright the Moon is depends on where it is in the sky. If the Moon is between the Earth and the Sun, it doesn’t bounce any sunlight to us at all, and it is very hard to see, even at night. This is called a new moon. When the Moon is behind the Earth, it shines very brightly. We call this a full moon. You can see in this video how the Moon gets different amounts of sunlight as it orbits around the Earth. That changes how it looks to us. Sometimes, when the Moon is very bright, we can see it even during the daytime.

Let's try an experiment! Tonight, get a flashlight and go into your room. (Bring your mom or dad with you if that seems a little scary.) Turn off the lights, and turn on the flashlight. You'll notice that it’s very easy to see the bright light of the flashlight. Keep the flashlight on, then turn the room lights back on. Now the light from the flashlight is a lot harder to see. It's the same with the Moon. At night, it’s easy to see the Moon, because it’s the brightest thing in the sky. But during the day, the Moon has to be very bright for us to notice it. That means that the best time to see a daytime moon is in the morning just before and just after the full moon. 

To learn more about the Moon and light, visit the Science Trek Moon Facts web page.

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New Jersey Is Now Home to the Western Hemisphere's Largest Planetarium

Space-loving tourists often travel to Manhattan to visit the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. But starting December 9, they’ll be able to get their fill of stars and planets in nearby Jersey City. As Astronomy reports, New Jersey’s second-most-populous city is now home to the largest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere, and the fourth largest in the world.

The Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, an interactive science museum in Liberty State Park, opened in 1993. It’s home to 12 museum exhibition halls, aquariums, a live animal collection, and an IMAX dome theater. On July 31, 2017, the theater was closed for extensive renovations, thanks to a $5 million gift from an altruistic former high school teacher-turned-philanthropist, Jennifer Chalsty, who’s served as a science center trustee since 2004.

Renamed the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium, the IMAX theater received a digital upgrade and a brand-new screen, and was provided with the requisite technology to serve as a planetarium. The theater’s dome is 60 feet high, with a diameter of 89 feet, and its 10-projector system broadcasts onto a 12,345-square-foot domed screen.

There are only three planetariums in the world that are larger than the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium, and they’re all located in China and Japan. “You can fit any other planetarium in the Western Hemisphere inside the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium,” said Paul Hoffman, the science center's president and CEO, in a press release. “Add in the state-of-the-art technology and you have a spectacular unique theater like none other in the world. Visitors will be able to fly through the universe, experience the grandness and vastness of space, roam planetary surfaces, navigate asteroid fields, and watch the latest full-dome movies."

[h/t Astronomy]

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How Often Is 'Once in a Blue Moon'? Let Neil deGrasse Tyson Explain
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From “lit” to “I can’t even,” lots of colloquialisms make no sense. But not all confusing phrases stem from Millennial mouths. Take, for example, “once in a blue moon”—an expression you’ve likely heard uttered by teachers, parents, newscasters, and even scientists. This term is often used to describe a rare phenomenon—but why?

Even StarTalk Radio host Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn’t know for sure. “I have no idea why a blue moon is called a blue moon,” he tells Mashable. “There is nothing blue about it at all.”

A blue moon is the second full moon to appear in a single calendar month. Astronomy dictates that two full moons can technically occur in one month, so long as the first moon rises early in the month and the second appears around the 30th or 31st. This type of phenomenon occurs every couple years or so. So taken literally, “Once in a blue moon” must mean "every few years"—even if the term itself is often used to describe something that’s even more rare.

[h/t Mashable]

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