The Moon, Earth, and Sun are all correlated in their place in our solar system. The Sun is why we have our four seasons; Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring. The Moon is what we see at night and causes our tides to be either high or low tides. Then we have Earth, which is the third planet from the Sun and the planet we live on which provides us with suitable living conditions. In this research project, Gianna, Mary, and Kelly will go in depth on the relationships between the Moon, Sun, and Earth and how they affect each other. Gianna focuses on the Sun, Mary focuses on Earth, and Kelly will do the Moon. For our creative piece, Gianna will put together a video of the tides at three hours or so apart. Every hour couple hours, she goes out onto the beach and records and looks at how the tides are affected throughout the day.
INTRODUCTION TO THE EARTH
Earth is the only rocky terrestrial planet in our solar system to support life. Earth revolves around the sun while the moon revolves around earth. The large body of water covers 70% of Earth’s surface which take up forms of body water such as lakes, rivers, and streams (NASA). There are many structures such as mountains, canyons, and plains that are spread out among Earth in different places. These different components lead to a variety of biodiversity among Earth’s ecosystem due to different climates and biomes in different areas. The five biomes that divide earth into different categories are the Tropical Rainforest, Tundra, Grasslands, Temperate Deciduous Forests, and Desert. Each biome is unique and distinct to each other that have entirely different characteristics that affect the overall biodiversity among living and nonliving; characteristics such as precipitation rate that affect vegetation growth for resources and productivity rate. For example, Tropical Rainforest has a high productivity due to high precipitation which allows for more vegetation to grow throughout the ecosystem. Therefore, more organisms are being fed increasing the population. There are also different cycles performed like the hydrologic cycle, carbon cycle, and nitrogen cycle. The hydrologic cycle consists of different processes that transport and transform water to different forms such as gas and liquid. The five different processes that are performed in this cycle are precipitation, condensation, evaporation, transpiration, and run off (National Weather Service). The hydrologic cycle is one of the most important cycles because it provides humans and other living organisms water in their habitat. Without water, earth would not be habitable and vegetation won’t grow. The first step of the cycle is when runoff water from precipitation ends up in different bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, and oceans. Then water is evaporated from these bodies of water which changes from a liquid to a gas. Condensation is then performed where the gas is turned back into liquid followed by precipitation (National Weather Service). Precipitation can take different forms of water and can vary from either hail, snow, sleet, or rain. These forms then fall onto Earth’s surface, therefore, restarting the cycle again. Another important function is photosynthesis. Photosynthesis allows for planets to create oxygen for all living organisms. Without this cycle, all living organisms will not survive. The back bone of photosynthesis is due to the sun. The sun provides energy to plants to create their own food. Furthermore, Earth differentiates from all the other planets in our ecosystem due to having a protective atmosphere. Earth is composed of four different atmospheres which are troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, and thermosphere. Starting with the troposphere, which is the lowest layer, this is where humans live and where all weather occurs (UCAR, 2020). As you climb higher in each atmosphere, it gets more cold. Next layer is the stratosphere which is where ozone is located. This sphere is important in protecting living organisms because the ozones absorb the ultraviolet radiation from the sun (UCAR, 2020). The mesosphere is the third layer which is where most meteors burn and where air is too thin to breathe (UCAR, 2020). The air pressure also significantly drops which is similar to the pressure of below sea level (UCAR, 2020). Finally, the thermosphere is the highest layer which is where satellites orbit and has the highest temperatures among all the layers due to the majority of the UV radiation being absorbed from the sun (UCAR, 2020).
EARTH’S TIDE AND THE MOON
The tides, high and low are caused by the Moon. The moon generates or creates a tidal force through its gravitational pull. The moon’s gravity pulls on the Earth as it rotates on different parts. For instance, we have high and low tides about twice a day. Since the moon is so close to us it has enough power to move things around despite it being 1/100th the mass of Earth. The moon’s gravitational pull not only affects the tides and the ocean but occasionally it can affect the land. No one is able to tell with their naked eye but can be tracked with special instruments. But when the moon’s gravitational pull pulls in the tides, it is very easy to see. Especially when the water bulges out towards the direction of the moon. This is called tidal force. The bulge is what we call high tide. This occurs as the Earth rotates into the bulge. Although this explains how tidal force works, this doesn’t explain tides. Because earth is not covered in an even layer of water, the effect of the moon’s gravitational differs and varies depending on which continent you are on and which ocean is closest to you. As well as bulging on the same side that the moon is pulling on, bulging can also happen on the opposite side of earth, farther from the moon. This happens because of tidal force. Tidal force is a kind of differential force. This means that it works because of the different levels of gravitational pull across the Earth’s surface. On the side of the earth that is farthest from the moon, the strength of the moon’s gravitational pull is at its weakest. Meanwhile, the Moon’s gravitational pull on the whole planet is concentrated at the center of Earth. Now on the side of the Earth that is facing the moon, the gravitational pull is the strongest and the water is pulled towards the moon. To get the tidal force, you subtract the moon’s average gravitational pull over the entire planet from the moon’s gravitational pull in a specific place on the planet. Surprisingly, the moon’s gravitational pull is not the only factor that influences the tides. The sun causes tides as well. The tides that the sun causes tend to be on the smaller side. Lunar and solar tides reinforce each other when the Earth, moon, and sun are lined up in outer space. These are sometimes called spring tides but when these forces work opposite each other they cause something called neap tides. We see spring tides about every two weeks or whenever there is a new moon or full moon. The tides or water level can be affected by wind and weather patterns. Strong winds coming from offshore can move the water far from coastlines which can exaggerate low tides. Low tides can be made less noticeable when the onshore winds push the water onto the shore. Strong storms, hurricanes, and other low pressure weather systems can create extremely high tides. Sea levels getting pushed down can lead to lower tides brought on by high pressure weather systems.
Earth is known to rotate in a 24 hour cycle which pulls the moon’s gravity at different parts of the planet creating high and low tides across different coastlines in the planet (USA GOV, 2020). Different locations vary among earth. Some will have more frequent high tides than others. However, high tides are more likely to occur at night depending on the phases of the moon (USA GOV, 2020). Like stated previously, the sun also contributes to the high and low tides. Most coastlines have two high tides and two low tides a day (NOS). Overall, the angles of the earth, moon, and sun varies on how frequent high and low tides occur.
PHASES OF THE MOON & ORBITAL PERIOD
Every night we have a new and slightly different view of the Moon. We call these the Moon phases. There are about 8 Moon phases; New Moon, Waxing Crescent, First Quarter, Waxing Gibbous, Full Moon, Waning Gibbous, Third Quarter, Waning Crescent. Many used to think that the Moon was changing its shape but this isn’t what’s changing, it’s our view of the moon. The Sun reflects its light onto the Moon. The moon can’t produce its own light and without the Sun, the Moon would be completely dark and we wouldn’t be able to see it. “Moonlight” is basically just the Sun’s light reflected onto the moon. The Sun’s light comes from one side and lights up only one other side of the Moon. From Earth we only ever see 50% of the moon at all times, the side that’s lit and that side that is referred to as the “dark side of the moon.” From Earth, we get a different view of the Moon because of where the Moon is in its orbital path. We have a Full Moon when we can see the illuminated side of the Moon fully. As the nights go by, we see less and less of the Moon at night as it orbits. There comes a night when we don’t see any part of the Moon and it is completely dark. We call this New Moon and this means that the far side of the moon is facing the Sun. The cycle of the Moon phases starts with the New Moon. As mentioned before, we can’t see it. Although, if you look hard enough you may be able to see a faint outline. After the New Moon we have Waxing Crescent. In these phases we see a thin crescent moon on the right side of the Moon. After that we have the First Quarter. This is when we see half of the half of the Moon we see every night. Next is Waxing Gibbous. It is called “Waxing” because it is getting bigger and closer to the next phases. Then we have the Full Moon. This is the easiest to identify. We can see the moon completely illuminated. Next, we have the Waning Gibbous. Waning means “getting smaller” so this signifies that we will start to see less and less of the moon as the nights go on. Third Quarter comes after. This is basically the other half of the First Quarter Moon. Lastly, there is the Waning Crescent. Like the Waxing Crescent, it is thin and the phases start over again at New Moon. These phases take place in a period of about 27 days. Which means that we get to experience these moon phases about every month. This is called a sidereal month. The Moon is orbiting Earth in a counterclockwise fashion while these phases are happening
SOLAR AND LUNAR ECLIPSES
An eclipse occurs when any planet, the Moon, and the Sun pass each other. A lunar eclipse happens when the Earth lines up perfectly between the Sun and the Moon. Earth’s shadow appears on the Moon when Earth blocks the light projecting towards the moon from the Sun. When we see this shadow from Earth, it is called a Lunar eclipse. Lunar eclipses can last for several hours and happen almost twice a year.
A solar eclipse is similar, but not quite the same as a lunar eclipse. A solar eclipse is when the moon is perfectly or partially in line and in between the sun and the earth. When this occurs, there is a shadow of the moon that appears onto the Earth’s surface. The three types of solar eclipses are a total solar eclipse, a partial solar eclipse, and an annular solar eclipse. A total solar eclipse is when the moon, earth, and sun are all directly in line. This creates a shadow of the moon onto the earth, but this type of eclipse is only visible to a very select portion of the earth. A partial solar eclipse is basically what the name gives off, the moon, sun, and earth are not directly in line, but they are close enough for the moon to cast a partial shadow on to the earth. An annular eclipse occurs when the earth and the moon are completely separated. This happens because of the elliptical shape of the moon’s orbit. The moon looks a bit smaller in size because of the distance, and then proceeds to hide part of the sun and it creates what seems to be a glowing outline of the moon (Wild).
INTRODUCTION TO THE SUN
The sun is about 4.5 billion years old and is a very typical star that the inhabitants of Earth rely on in order to survive. The sun contains a variety of different gasses including hydrogen and helium. These gasses are not technically in the gas state, they are in a plasmatic state of matter. This then means that the sun is not actually a solid. The gasses in the sun make up what is known as a yellow dwarf star, but it is projected that the sun will become a red giant. When the sun becomes a red giant, this means that it will become increasingly hotter as the gasses contract into themselves. After this occurs, the outer gasses will then expand the entire mass. The mass is projected to expand around 200 times the current radius, which will lead to the end of Mercury and Venus (National).
The sun, just like many other different masses in space, rotates around its own axis. Unlike the earth, the sun rotates clockwise and takes approximately twenty-five to thirty-five days. The sun is what earth depends on in order to have everyday functions. Some of these functions include weather, the seasons throughout the months, and without the sun Earth could not even sustain life in general. The sun and earth are approximately 150 million kilometers apart, which also happens to be known as an astronomical unit. This distance may seem like it is way too far from the sun, however, it is the perfect distance in order for life to be sustainable on Earth. If the sun were much closer, the atmosphere surrounding the planet would probably be burned into nothingness. Without the atmosphere humans would have no air to breathe in addition to no protection from the harmful and strong rays of the sun. If the earth was much further away it would be pretty difficult for life to be sustainable as well. The entire planet as a whole would be way too cold. There would not be enough light and heat reaching the Earth as it needs to be reached. Plants would wilt without this light, and humans would probably freeze to death along with other animals and species (National).
Solar winds are extremely heated particles that detach from the sun into space. Over time as these particles are thrown, the sun losses quite a lot of mass. Around every 150 million years the particles that have been ejected equate to the mass of the Earth. Even though this seems like alot of loss for the sun, .001 percent has only been lost up to this point. These solar wind particles actually can travel past the magnetic field of the Earth and collide with the atmosphere. This then causes the atmosphere to have color glow within it, which are then in turn called the Northern and Southern Lights. If solar winds are too extreme, they can cause issues with the satellites surrounding the earth and cause power outages (National).
The earth has the differentiation of day and night. This is caused by the way that the Earth rotates on its axis. The complete rotation around the axis of the earth only takes about twenty-four hours (3). Earth’s tilted axis is what causes the four seasons to occur throughout the year. The four different seasons to occur throughout the year are Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. Different parts of the Earth throughout the year receive the most direct Sunlight due to Earth’s tilted axis (NASA, 2020). For instance, when the North Pole is tilted towards the Sun, this means summer is occurring (NASA, 2020). While the South Pole is tilted towards the Sun, winter is occuring in the Northern Hemisphere (NASA, 2020). When Earth orbits the sun, the tilted axis always faces the same direction which is why different parts of Earth face different amounts of the Sun’s rays (NASA, 2020). Generally during December, the Sun shines directly onto the Southern Hemisphere which means summer is occuring in the south of the equator while winter is occuring in the north (NASA, 2020). In March, the Sun shines equally among the Southern and Northern hemisphere; Fall occurs south of the equator while north spring occurs (NASA, 2020). In June, the sun shines directly onto the Northern Hemisphere, therefore, causing summer to occur north of the equator and winter to occur in the south (NASA, 2020). In September, the Sun also shines equally among the South and Northern Hemisphere causing Fall to occur north of equator and spring to occur in the south (NASA, 2020).
Overall, the relationship between the Sun, Moon, and Earth all play a key role in helping Earth thrive and provide life among different organisms. Without the functions of the Sun and Moon, Earth wouldn’t be a habitable planet for humans, plants, animals, and more living organisms. For instance, the Sun helps photosynthesis to occur allowing for primary producers to make their own food. The sun also promotes vegetation growth among ecosystems across earth which is what contributes to biodiversity and allowing animals to survive. The moon impacts high and low tides throughout the day and affects the tidal force. High and low tides vary among earth due to the position and distance from the moon. You may wonder why it’s important in understanding the importance of tides; it’s important to understand the tides due to safety reasons for tourists and for shipping and fishing industries. Furthermore, all the different components we see such as plants, trees, animals, wouldn’t be possible to exist without the interactions between the earth, moon, and sun. Every little detail is what makes earth habitable and creates the opportunity for us to explore and enjoy nature.
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US Department of Commerce, N. (2018, May 06). How many high tides are there per day? Retrieved December 05, 2020, from https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/high-tide.html
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Wild, F. (2015, June 01). What Is an Eclipse? Retrieved December 05, 2020, from https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/5-8/features/nasa-knows/what-is-an-eclipse-58
Growing up, I’ve always had a fascination with Astronomy and our solar system. In middle school, we were taught the basic functions of the earth, moon, and sun but we never discussed in depth of how each of them impact one another. This is why I was interested in choosing the interactions between the earth, moon, and sun as our research topic. We’ve discussed many components such as earth’s tides and how they’re impacted by the sun and moon. For our creative project, we decided to record a video of the tides at the beach and analyze the differences throughout the day.
Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to travel to Outer Banks but Gianna facetimed and sent the videos each hour she recorded of the tides.
As I’ve seen from the video, high tide is more likely to occur later in the day. Connecting from previous experiences from traveling to different beaches, it’s always relaxing and a wonderful experience. When driving to the beach, I remember seeing little bits of the ocean view which would make me excited as we drove closer. When stepping out of the car, I can already hear the ocean waves crashing onto the shore. We always went early in the day so there weren’t as many people. I feel like regardless of the season, it’s never disappointing to visit the beach. Seeing the ocean view, hearing the waves crashed onto the shore, touching the soft sand, and feeling the breeze brush against your skin. These little details and experiences is what makes the beach such a relaxing place. No stressful and anxious thoughts cross my mind when being there. I always make sure to stay off my phone and enjoy every moment since I don’t see the beach very often. My favorite part would be sitting by the beach and watching the sunset. Seeing the sky flourish with different colors as the day is about to end is memorable.
Even though I did not go to the beach, connecting to my previous experiences and remembering what it was like being there was comforting itself. This made me realize how earth itself has so many different places to explore. The beach would always have to be one of my favorites because it’s intriguing to think that the ocean is a beautiful site yet it also has the capability of causing massive destruction. However, I mainly like to associate the beach as a relaxing place to be at. It’s fascinating to see the beach as part of the many interactions earth has with the sun and moon. For instance, how the tides differ during different parts of the day is one of the many interactions with the moon and sun. Furthermore, earth would not be able to function and be habitable without the interactions between the earth, sun, and moon. Everything that we see on earth such as the trees, plants, tides at the beach, including the air we breathe wouldn’t be possible to thrive without the interactions between the earth, moon, and sun. When viewing nature in general, we tend to overlook how important the interaction between the earth, moon, and sun and how vital it is in order for these different components to exist.
This project has helped me better understand my new permanent home. In March of 2020 I moved to the Outer Banks permanently because of my parent’s divorce. This is not to say I have not been to the beach many times during the summer, but the moon, tides, and sun are different around this time of year. It is also quite different because of the fact it is the off-season, and I am really able to appreciate the beach more because there are not people crowding me as there would be during the summer. I am able to go to the beach in order to really enjoy the sounds and smells of nature. There are not any crying children, angry aunts or uncles, and there is no blaring music from tourists nearby. It is basically just the sand, the waves, the sun, and I. Due to the coronavirus, I was unable to let Mary and Kelly come to my house to help with the actual videoing of the project, but I FaceTimed them in order to ensure they were included on the video portion of this project.
I have always been aware of the tides and the sun. For me, the beach was where I felt most at home. However, I never really researched the times that the tides rise and fall. For this project, I went home in October in order to video, but the weather was not cooperating in my favor. The week I was home, I still researched the times the tides were rising and falling because it intrigued me that it was not at the same time every day.
When we returned home for winter break, I was running out of days to film the video for our project. I finally had time the week after Thanksgiving. I decided I was going to film the high tide while the moon was still out. I ended up having to go to the beach at 11:40 PM. I grabbed a flashlight in order to make sure cars could see me if they drove past, my phone to video the hightide, and I regretfully made the walk to the beach without a jacket. As soon as I started walking, I knew I made a mistake, but I did not want to turn around in case I missed hightide. When I got to the beach, I realized that you probably could not see anything that I was going to record, but I decided I would try my best in order to make the video worthwhile. I then recorded again at 3 AM, but you were still unable to see the falling tide. I recorded again around 6 AM because it was low tide. While the tides were rising again, I decided to video at 7 AM because the sun was rising. It was beautiful and I am always amazed by how beautiful the sunrises are here. I decided again to video around 9 AM, but the day turned out to be rainy even though the forecast claimed that it would not be so I decided not to get soaking get.
I am extremely grateful that I got to see the relationship of the sun, moon, and earth before my very own eyes, but as I finish this reflection up after my day of recording, I can also say I am extremely grateful for sleep.
Via Gianna’s video and FaceTime call, I could almost see the interactions between the Earth, Moon, Tides. Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun, and the rotation of the Earth. Only being to the beach a handful of times, I do not know of anyone who goes to look at the tides and I remember ever paying attention to the tides. Even looking back at the last I went to the beach which was in September, I was more focused on how far the water went. From the call and video, all the information that we studied and learned this semester in our class really came together. We learned in class that tides are caused by the interaction between the Earth, Moon, and Sun. The Earth rotates on its axis and the magnetic pulls from both the Moon and Sun. I never really saw the importance of the tides. They (the tides) never really made sense to me and was probably one of the last things on the list of important aspects of the ocean. Through our research, I learned that tides immensely affect the reproduction and activities of many sea life like ocean plants and fish along the coastline on many beaches which indirectly affects us humans who use that water. The tides also act as a circulant of nutrients to those ocean plants and fish and can also remove pollutants. While tides are usually the largest source of short-term sea-level fluctuations, sea levels are also subject to forces such as wind and barometric pressure changes, resulting in storm surges, especially in shallow seas and near coasts. Many shorelines experience semidiurnal tides—two nearly equal high and low tides each day. Other locations have a diurnal tide—one high and low tide each day. A “mixed tide”—two uneven magnitude tides a day—is a third regular category. Tides can vary on many timescales ranging from hours to years due to a different number of factors, which determine the lunitidal interval. To make accurate records, tide gauges at fixed stations measure water level over time. With the help of our resources, we were able to see the different types of tides experienced at the beach. There is the highest astronomical tide where the highest tide can be predicted to occur. Then there is the mean high water spring which is the average of the two high tides on the days of spring tides. After that there are mean high water neaps, mean sea level, mean low water neaps, mean low water springs which is the average of the two lowest tides that day occurred on the spring tides, and lastly, the lowest astronomical tide and chart datum where the lowest tide which can be predicted to occur. Some charts use this as the chart datum. However, under certain meteorological conditions the water may fall lower than this meaning that there is less water than shown on charts.