Skip to main content
SearchLoginLogin or Signup

Total Solar Eclipse Misconceptions: Evolving Mental Models

We describe solar misconceptions, the relevant science, and activities.

Published onMar 07, 2024
Total Solar Eclipse Misconceptions: Evolving Mental Models


Like many ideas we can’t see or touch, total solar eclipses are challenging to understand. Without knowing it, we develop mental models about how they occur, what to expect, and what they tell us. To evolve learners’ mental models, multiple activities, experiences, discussion, and reflection are required to end up with an accurate mental model that a learner can explain to someone else. In this paper, we discuss a process for identifying learners’ misconceptions and how they can be challenged and evolved to be more accurate. We discuss eight common total solar eclipse misconceptions, the relevant science, along with activities to help evolve them.

1. Introduction

Total solar eclipses are a cosmic coincidence. How else do you explain that the Moon is 400 times smaller than the Sun (2,159 mile diameter vs. 865,370 miles), but also 400 times nearer to us (Moon is 238,900 miles away, Sun is 91 million). This makes the only two disks in our sky appear the same size! This would not be the case if either object were larger, smaller, nearer, or farther away. In fact, over time, our Moon’s orbit will move farther from Earth, and we won’t experience the same phenomenon.

Total solar eclipses are very important in heliophysics since they allow scientists to observe the solar corona, or the outer layer of the Sun. In addition, photographs and other measurements can be analyzed after the solar eclipse and used for additional science. For example, conducting experiments during solar eclipses provides scientists insights into how the ionosphere behaves in the shadow of the Moon.

 2. Misconceptions in Education

2.1 Why identify (counterintuitive, persistent, not always visible, preconceived)

Misconceptions arise when we try to use existing information and models to understand something new. This kind of thinking is often effective if the new situation is similar to something we already know or believe but often, these intuitive leaps lead people to false conclusions. These connections are so automatic, we often don’t realize we have made them. They may go unexamined and so are called “preconceptions” that are the basis of our “mental models.”

For example, a study in the early 1990’s (Vosniadou & Brewer, 1992) of children’s mental models of Earth discovered five alternative mental models: flat rectangle you could fall off, disc you could fall off, dual (flat where we are, a round Earth in the sky), hollow sphere with flat area inside where people live) and a flattened sphere with areas on the top and bottom where people live (Figure 1 on the right by Troadec et al. 2009 based on Vosniadou & Brewer, 1992)

image of balls and flat Earths
Figure 1

Children’s mental models of Earth

2.2 How to identify (research, experience, possible sources)

Because our brains are hardwired to look for familiar patterns and information, we share alternative conceptions, leading to a small number of mental models. Einstein purportedly said, “There exists a passion for comprehension… that passion is rather common in children but gets lost in most people later on.” Until children learn there is a right answer, they are often more than willing to share their private theories. Psychologist Jean Piaget (Piaget & Cook, 1952) famously interviewed children about where Lake Geneva in Switzerland came from. Some explained that the people built it, others that it formed so people could enjoy it. When apprised of the glacial formation of Lake Geneva, some children adopted that explanation, while others integrated it into their preconception, explaining that people used the glaciers to make the lake. Piaget noted that children “assimilate” new information all the time, and to different degrees “accommodate” it by evolving their private theories.

Researchers identify misconceptions through interviews, but parents and teachers also hear them in their children’s explanations of things or observe them in their drawings. The process of developing and evolving mental models continues with young adults and in anyone learning something new. Researchers are often able to identify commonly held misconceptions as well as how they evolve, which is invaluable for educators who can probe and assess students’ mental models to see how they are evolving through experience, information, and discussion.

2.3 How to address - activities to evolve misconceptions

The tricky thing about evolving misconceptions is that we trust our senses and cling to what they tell us. It often takes several different experiences before someone lets go of what they think they know. Piaget’s distinction between what we are exposed to (assimilation) and what we use in our own thinking (accommodation) is useful. Just teaching someone something doesn’t mean that knowledge will affect their mental model. The National Research Council identifies several approaches to link students’ correct understandings to their misconceptions (NRC, 2012).

Conceptual development is based on encountering new ideas that contradict current private theories or mental models. Multiple exposures to new contradictory information or ideas can drive gradual revisions that develop into accurate explanations supported by science.

Fortunately, mental models are just that - models - so they can evolve with new experience, information, and discussion. In their research on student conceptions of Earth, Vosniadou & Brewer (1992) observed that, “Children come to understand that the Earth is a sphere only when the presuppositions that gave rise to their initial models have been reinterpreted.”

That reinterpretation may require naming those alternate conceptions and confronting them directly. Derek Muller (2008) compared two multimedia treatments of a topic: 1) lecture-style explanation with only correct information presented, 2) dialogue format between a tutor and a student involving several common alternative conceptions. Students who saw the dialogue performed significantly better on the post test. His Veritasium YouTube series is based on this research, as are the NASA eClips Spotlite student-produced videos.

When given compelling contrary evidence, learners evolve their private theories through reflection and discussion. Unlike Piaget, who focused on the individual cognitive process, the Russian psychologist Vygotsky (1986) observed that people learned through hearing each other’s ideas. Some ideas were in their “zone of proximal development” that is, something they could understand and use in evolving their own understanding. This suggests a shift in pedagogy from conveying information to facilitating the development of accurate mental models. Particularly for difficult, counterintuitive, or intransigent concepts, the focus has to be on having learners identify what they think they know and how they know it, followed by opportunities to re-examine those mental models in light of contrary evidence. One approach is to use the following questions about a topic, theory, or idea in which individuals reflect, then share and discuss their theories with peers, for example:

  1. What do you think?

  2. How do you know that? Or why do you think that? (sources of evidence, prior experience, analogous situations)

  3. After learning, what is your understanding of this new evidence or alternative theory? (assimilation)

  4. How does this new understanding fit with what you were thinking before?

  5. What do you think now? (accommodation)

  6. Why do you think this? (identifying new sources of evidence)

  7. How did your theory change? (confirming how and why it changed)

 With this approach in mind, we present common solar eclipse misconceptions, sources for them, the science behind them, and some activities to evolve these misconceptions into real scientific understandings. Not all the activities are designed to confront and evolve misconceptions, but they can be used in the overall process. For example, returning to the mental models of Earth, the pedagogy might flow as follows (images by author):

Table 1

Evolving mental models


What learners draw

Sample drawings

Where do you live on Earth?

What they see, a house, trees, mountains, ocean, lake, or stream, maybe even their house with in it

children's drawing of a house

Show a globe and point to where you live

One of the common models (disc, hollow, flat, other) with a stick figure where they live (somewhere relatively flat)

children drawing of a house in the center of a globe

Use a 3D model to show the hot interior of Earth

Stick figure is now drawn on a circle (representing the globe), such as at north pole

children's drawing of a person on a globe

Model spin of Earth with globe

Stick figures now have other ways of being anchored where they live, wearing gravity boots to be where they actually live

children’s drawing of the Earth and a person on Africa

Model tilt of axis with globe

Some learners now put their stick figure on the axis

children's drawing of the Earth

Explain and model gravity with falling objects

Most learners now put themselves where they are geographically located with no anchoring device

Children’s drawing of Earth and small stick figure in North America

We see throughout this process, new and contrary information being introduced and affecting learners’ mental models with an opportunity to accommodate it in their drawings. Discussion and hands-on activities with the globe are not shown here but are probably needed to develop accurate mental models.

3. Eclipse Misconceptions with Sources, the Science, and Activities

Humans have watched solar eclipses since before the dawn of written history, and during this long span of time our scientific understanding of the physical world has grown enormously. As a consequence, many of the older ideas we had about the causes and effects of total solar eclipses have been replaced by detailed scientific explanations. Nevertheless, some older ideas persist because they have not been confronted. That confrontation can use models, logic, science information, hands-on activities, discussion, and reflection as outlined in the approach above.

Here we examine eight eclipse misconceptions, discuss possible sources of each misconception, provide the science, and suggest activities to help learners evolve their mental models to be based on science.

● Total solar eclipses are rare on Earth.

● In our solar system, total solar eclipses only occur on Earth.

● Locations close to the path but not on it are good enough to experience a total solar eclipse.

● Total solar eclipses produce harmful rays that can cause blindness.

● Eclipses will poison any food that is prepared during the event.

● Eclipses predict life events.

● There are no total solar eclipses at Earth’s North or South Poles.

● The Moon turns completely black during a total lunar eclipse.

 3.1 Total solar eclipses are rare on Earth.

Many people have never seen a total solar eclipse, or even a partial solar eclipse. Or if they have, it was once. At the NASA booth in Albuquerque New Mexico during the 2023 annular solar eclipse, many of the adults were telling stories about “the time” they saw a total solar eclipse. Some remembered their own parents or grandparents talking about how magical it was to see this “once in a lifetime” event. Many had traveled to be in the path of totality so their children could experience it.

map of US with eclipse paths
Figure 2

Showing path of totality for April 8, 2024 and other solar eclipses between 1918 and 2106 (Credit: NASA/Washington Post)

Sources of this misconception: Many people cannot experience a total solar eclipse without traveling. On average any one place on Earth experiences a total solar eclipse only every 375 years so without traveling, a person is unlikely to experience one.

The Science: In fact, there are two to five solar eclipses each year on Earth, with a total eclipse taking place about every 18 months. The reason it seems like a once in a lifetime event is because solar eclipses happen in different geographic locations each time, rarely occurring in the same location within 100 years. The 2017 total solar eclipse across the U.S. was the first total solar eclipse to cross the country in thirty-eight years. The occurrence of the 2024 total solar eclipse, just seven years after the 2017 is, in fact, a very special treat for the U.S. The next total solar eclipse won’t cross the U.S. until the year 2044. Additionally, Earth is covered mostly with water, so when the path of the Moon’s shadow travels over densely populated areas of land, it is an event to remember! In April 2024, the path of totality will be 115 miles wide and cross 15 states from northern Mexico to southeastern Canada. Over 32 million people live on that path who could potentially view the solar eclipse. That’s about 10% of the total US population. In 2017, when the path of totality ran from Oregon to South Carolina and was 70 miles wide, it offered 12 million people the possibility of viewing the solar eclipse. It is estimated that with people traveling to the path of totality, 21 million were in the path during that solar eclipse. Estimates for 2024 are that 50 million people will travel into the path of totality.


● US Eclipse Path Maps 2023-24

Use this map and population maps to have students predict the number of people in the path of totality. They can also estimate land area covered in the paths.

● My NASA Data Lesson Plan: Why don’t we have solar eclipses every month?

In this lesson students will analyze past and future eclipse data and orbital models to determine why we don’t experience eclipses every month. Through their investigation students learn that solar eclipses happen fairly frequently around the globe, just not always in the same place.

● Eclipse times and locations

Use the tables for the next 10 years and the past 10 years to draw conclusions about how often eclipses occur somewhere on Earth. Explain why they are rarely in the same place. Investigate the Saros Cycle to learn how often nearly identical eclipses occur on Earth.

● Experience a Solar Eclipse

In this lesson, students explore the experience of a total solar eclipse and learn the mechanics of eclipses. Photographs and videos from the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse give students a sense of the event. Students also work through an interactive lesson to investigate the orbits and relative positions of the Moon, the Sun, and Earth to understand what causes eclipses and why they are rare for specific locations.

 3.2 In our solar system, total solar eclipses only occur on Earth.

With eight planets revolving around our Sun, and over 180 known moons orbiting those planets, one would think solar eclipses would occur on other planets with moons. And it is true, they do! A solar eclipse is a type of transit, which occurs when one celestial object passes between the observer and another celestial object. For example, we can observe transits of Venus and Mercury, as they pass between Earth and the Sun. However, total solar eclipses don’t happen very often on other planets. They occur on Earth because of the unique ratio of the size and distance between the Sun and Moon, with the Moon being 400 times closer to Earth than the Sun and the Sun being 400 times bigger than the Moon, thus making the two objects appear the same size in the sky. NASA has spacecraft with instruments that have measured the orbits and sizes of moons of other planets so they can tell if total solar eclipses occur.

Sources of this misconception: Because Earth is the only habitable planet in our solar system, we tend to have an Earth-centric perspective. Most people probably haven’t thought about eclipses on other planets and they may not know which planets have moons that would make eclipses possible.

Sun covered by Phobos
Figure 3

This image shows an eclipse of the Sun by Phobos from the surface of Mars. Because the disk of the satellite is much smaller than the solar disk, this is actually called a transit.

The Science: Of the four rocky planets, Earth is the only one that has total solar eclipses. Venus and Mercury don’t have moons. Mars has two moons but they are too small and too far away to completely block out the disk of the Sun. Thus Mars only annular eclipses, but they occur quite often! Its moon Phobos can create two eclipses a day. The four giant gas planets (Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune) have moons that are the right size and distance. ( 


● Can eclipses happen on Mars?

Learn how NASA studies Mars. Create diagrams that show the extent and nature of eclipses on Mars with its moon Phobos and Deimos.

● Do other planets have moons that are the right size and distance to create a total solar eclipse?

To answer this question, have students use data from NASA Planetary Fact Sheets to create a table with the radius of each planet, the number of moons, the distance to the Sun and the angular size in degrees. Then, they can calculate the angular sizes of the moons at the extremes of the orbits and divide the angular sizes of the moons into the angular size of the Sun. For a total solar eclipse to occur, the ratio must be greater than 1.

● Exploratorium: Solar Eclipses

This series of videos and images shows solar eclipses on other planets. Learners can identify the types of eclipses and why they are or are not a total eclipse.

3.3 Locations close to the path of totality are good enough to experience a total solar eclipse.

Before the 2017 total solar eclipse in the U.S., this idea was falsely promoted on social media. The claim was that observing a total solar eclipse just off the path of totality, with 99% of the Sun blocked by the Moon’s shadow, would create the same effect as being within the path, with the Sun 100% blocked. This misconception created some disappointing experiences for observers.  

Source of this misconception: Social media.

The Science: The typical angular diameter of the Sun is about 1,800 arcseconds (about 0.5 degrees). During a 99% partial solar eclipse, the lunar diameter is 99% of 1,800”, which means a crescent 18’’ wide will remain. There is enough sunlight from even this small crescent that you can still see your shadow. At 99%, this small fraction of the Sun’s light remains dangerous to look at without proper eye protection, and the light overpowers the light from the faint corona, and the corona cannot be seen. While partial solar eclipses are still interesting to experience and can be viewed at different percentages 2,000 - 3,000 miles from the path of totality, the effect is not the same. Within the path, it gets dark, like at twilight, causing animals to begin to behave as if it were nighttime. At 99%, the sunlight has dimmed by about 100 times. While the sky is cast in a unique light, it is not as dark as it is on the path. You might see Baily’s Beads or a Diamond Ring, but you will not see a total eclipse of the Sun. During that last 99% phase to full eclipse, the Sun’s brightness drops by another factor of about 100 (Scientific American, 2017). The deeper you go into the path, the longer totality will last. Unless you actually know that a solar eclipse is occurring, you may not even notice the eclipse is happening unless it is more than about 98% covered by the lunar disk. This is especially true during partly cloudy days when some dimming from clouds is expected.


● Predict the Corona

Choose to use chalk art or cake art to predict what the corona will look like during a total solar eclipse. You will only see it in the total eclipse.

● How does a solar eclipse affect air temperature?

During a total solar eclipse you can feel the air temperature change. In this activity, students will examine air temperature data collected through the GLOBE Program during the 2017 U.S. solar eclipse.

3.4 Total solar eclipses produce harmful rays that can cause blindness.

During a total solar eclipse when the disk of the Moon fully covers the Sun, we can see the brilliant corona. Scientists have studied this radiation for centuries. Being a million times fainter than the light from the Sun itself, there are no properties of the coronal light that could cross 150 million kilometers of space, penetrate our dense atmosphere, and cause blindness. However, if you make the mistake of looking at the Sun at any time during a partial solar eclipse, even with the Sun 90-99% blocked before totality, you will catch a glimpse of the brilliant solar surface and this can cause retinal damage (although the typical human instinctual response is to quickly look away before any severe damage has actually occurred).

Sources of this misconception may come from being overcautious, fearful, or not understanding how sunlight affects our eyes.

The Science: During ordinary circumstances, staring at the Sun will cause blindness and most certainly retinal damage. Distinctions between whether the sunlight is ultraviolet, visible or infrared means very little because of the sheer intensity of the radiation entering the eyeball and being focused onto the retinal rods and cones. Our autonomic reflexes cause us to instantly turn away from this exposure. The two most damaging components for poorly-filtered sunlight are the ultraviolet and the infrared parts of the visible spectrum. Poor ‘eclipse glasses’ may let some of this UV or infrared light through without you noticing, resulting in damage to the retina even though the visible light is significantly dimmed. This is why it is important to wear certified Sun filters and not use home-brew substitutes.

When the solar disk is fully covered by the Moon so that you are no longer reflexively squinting, you have now entered the entirely safe portion of the solar eclipse experience, which can last up to six minutes before the solar disk once again begins to appear and your squinting reflex takes over. You will see the light from the beautiful corona, which is safe to view because it is a million times fainter than the Sun’s disk.

total eclipse seeing the corona of the Sun
Figure 4

An example of the Sun at totality revealing the corona and no signs of the solar disk. (Credit: Luc Viatour / )


● Experimenting with UV-Sensitive Beads

Learn more about the type of light emitted by the Sun, and which type of light on the electromagnetic spectrum is harmful to humans. This activity that UV-sensitive beads to experiment with light.

● Make Snow Goggles

Discover traditional technology to protect eyes from sunlight in this activity! Iñupiat, Yup’ik, and Dené (Athabascan) peoples traditionally use snow goggles to protect the eyes from the glare of sunlight reflecting off snow. Narrow slits reduce incoming light, but provide a wide range of vision.

● How NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will Survive the Sun

This video explains how the low density of the corona makes it possible to fly the Parker Solar Probe into the Sun’s corona without it melting. The low density of the corona is related to why we can view it during a total solar eclipse without damaging our eyes.

● What is the Sun’s Corona?

This NASA Space Place website breaks down the properties of the corona for younger students, including why the corona is so dim.

3.5 Eclipses will poison any food that is prepared during the event.

Related to the false idea of harmful solar rays is that during a total solar eclipse, some kind of radiation is produced that will harm your food.

Sources of this misconception: The basic idea is that total solar eclipses are terrifying and their ghostly green coronae look frightening, so it is natural to want to make up fearful stories about them and look for coincidences among events around you. If someone is accidentally food-poisoned with potato salad during a solar eclipse, some might argue that the event was related to the eclipse itself even though hundreds of other people at the same location were not at all affected.

The Science: If radiation poisoned food, the same radiation would harm the food in your pantry, or crops in the field. The real causes of food poisoning are microorganisms. In fact, we use ionizing radiation to kill bacteria, molds and other pests in our food in a safety technique called food irradiation. This reduces food spoilage and food poisoning. Irradiation breaks chemical bonds to stop bacteria and other pathogens from multiplying (EPA).

Microwaves are a form of electromagnetic radiation that causes the water molecules in the food to vibrate, which produces heat to cook the food. Microwave energy changes to heat in the food and does not make food radioactive or contaminated. Microwave radiation in large doses can cause burns and cataracts so microwaves are sealed to prevent leakage (EPA, Microwave Ovens)


● Introduction to the Electromagnetic Spectrum

This short video and article summarize the types of radiation that the Sun emits on the electromagnetic spectrum and how the atmosphere protects us from most harmful radiation.

● What's on the Menu? Food and Culture on the Space Station

This short video shows the different types of food that astronauts eat on the International Space Station. Even food in space, above the atmosphere, is not affected by solar radiation and is safe to eat!

● World Health Organization: Five Keys to Safer Food

This short video identifies the real cause of food poisoning: microorganisms! Get tips for keeping your food safe, which does not include avoiding total solar eclipses.

● United States Department of Agriculture Food Safe Families Activity Book

This activity book contains fun activities on food safety for the whole family.

3.6 Eclipses predict life events.

A classic case of what psychologists call Confirmation Bias is that we tend to remember all the occasions when two things happened together, but forget all of the other times when they did not. This gives us a biased view of causes and effects that we remember easily, because the human brain is predisposed to look for, and remember patterns that can be used as survival rules-of-thumb. This causes us to attempt to model rare events that only occur about 5-10% of the time and provide explanations for them that might give us some survival advantage.

Total solar eclipses are not often recorded in the historical record, but they do tend to be recorded when they coincide with other historical events. For example, in 763 B.C., early Assyrian records mention an eclipse in the same passage as an insurrection in the city of Ashur, now known as Qal'at Sherqat in Iraq, suggesting that the ancient people linked the two in their minds. Or when King Henry I of England, the son of William the Conqueror, died in A.D. 1133, the event coincided with a total solar eclipse.

Sources of this misconception: When people are looking for “signs” they sometimes use natural events, like an eclipse, or an earthquake, or seeing a particular bird like a hawk. They want help making a decision or want to know what the future will bring. In ancient times, a person who could predict eclipses, could gain power, and be expected to say what such events might portend.

The Science: Natural events do not predict people’s life events or the direction of a community. Analysis of how often eclipses occur and how often significant historic events occur finds the times things occur no more than would be expected from random coincidences. Since natural events like earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, and tornadoes cause destruction of the natural and human-built worlds, scientists have developed methods and instruments to predict these events to reduce their effects through evacuation. Scientists and engineers have also developed materials and methods to mitigate these effects on the built environment that have become requirements by governments. This scientific approach leads to better predictions of effects of natural events on people and the environment.


● Do Cause and Effect Really Exist?

This short video from Minute Earth Minute Physics explores the physics behind the apparent cause and effects of events in nature.

● The Danger of Mixing up Causality and Correlation: Ionica Smeets at TEDx

This short Tedx Talk explains the dangers of eating ice cream as an example of false conclusions made by assumptions of causality.

● Do Credit Cards Make You Gain Weight? What is Correlation, and How to Distinguish It from Causation

This lesson teacher guide created by MIT includes a set of six activities for high school students focused on exploring the difference between correlation and causation.

3.7 There are no total solar eclipses at Earth’s North or South Poles.

In fact, there is nothing unique about these locations from an astronomical standpoint. The last total solar eclipse viewed from the North Pole area was on March 20, 2015 and passed right over the North Pole itself at which time it came to an end exactly at the Spring Equinox! The last total solar eclipse viewed from the South Pole area was on November 23, 2003.

Sources of this misconception: This may be related to the question, “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” Since the poles do not have large populations, events there are not generally reported. People also think of them as different in many ways so they may over-generalize that they don’t have eclipses. Some natural events do usually occur in particular areas, such as volcanoes and earthquakes where the tectonic plates come together, such as in the Pacific’s Ring of Fire.

The Science: There are fewer solar eclipses at the poles because they are a small part of Earth’s land area. Because of their locations in the extreme north and extreme south, the Sun only lights each one for part of the year.


● NASA Eclipse Data: Past and Future

This NASA website contains extensive data on past and future eclipses, with maps of where total solar eclipses can be viewed on Earth, including at both the North and South pole.

● Here’s Where You Can See Every Total Solar Eclipse for the Next Fifty Years

This Time magazine online article includes maps of all the total solar eclipses across the globe for the next fifty years (up to 2066). Have students examine the maps to determine how many of them can be viewed at Earth’s poles.

● 2003 Solar Eclipse in Antarctica

The November 23, 2003 eclipse cast a long oval shadow due to the Sun being so low on the horizon (15 degrees). You can see what this looks like by pointing a flashlight at a 15 degree angle to the floor. The image was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite.

3.8 The Moon turns completely black during a total solar eclipse.

Although it is difficult to see the New Moon and check out this idea, we don’t actually have to make this difficult observation. Look at the first quarter Moon and you will discover that the dark lunar surface beyond the crescent is weakly illuminated. This is because, as viewed from the Moon, Earth is very bright in the sky and its weak light is enough to turn the lunar surface a pale milky white.

Sources of this misconceptionWe normally see the Moon as white, but during a solar eclipse, and in the pictures we see ahead of time, the Moon looks black compared to the very bright corona of the Sun. Since we normally see the Moon as White, we may mistakenly label it as “turning black” when in fact, it is our perspective that makes it appear to have changed.

The Science: The darker part of a crescent Moon faintly appears white to us because of light reflected from Earth, called “earthshine.” The same thing applies during a total solar eclipse. Most of Earth’s surface is actually in broad daylight off the path of totality, and from the Moon it would be in full phase, shining down on the lunar surface at its brightest. During a total solar eclipse, the lunar surface can be dimly seen in photos due to earthshine, surrounded by the much more brilliant corona of the Sun!


● Total Solar Eclipse Image and Animation

This image shows a total solar eclipse. Look carefully and you will see lunar features because of earthshine.

● Phases of the Moon Diagram and Imagery

This NASA diagram shows images of the Moon at each phase as it journeys around Earth. Notice that even during a new Moon, you can see the lunar features. Or watch the phases in this short video: NASA Moon Phases 2015, Northern Hemisphere

● Earth Illuminates the Night Side of the Moon

This short video from the “What’s Up” podcast series from NASA includes the science behind earthshine, as well as other astronomical events from their November 2020 episode.

4. Checking for an Accurate Mental Model

Since conceptual development is a gradual process involving; questioning, examining contrary information, gaining experience, reflection, and discussion. Using an approach such as the one outlined here allows for revealing and revisiting one’s mental models. Ultimately, comparing one’s original mental model from a drawing or description with the evolved mental model with a description of the evidence or experience that contributed to the evolution not only consolidates the shift for the learner, but provides evidence of the effect of the instruction. Drawings are particularly powerful pre/post evidence of change. Explanations provide another check on the evolved mental model. Of course, these can be used for assessment or grading, but most importantly they show the learner how their mental model has changed so it is more likely to permanently replace the original misconception.  Success with this can lead to more willingness to restructure their knowledge in the future (Scott et al, 1991; Novak, 2002).

5. Conclusions

The misconceptions about total solar eclipses can evolve if learners are given an opportunity to talk about or draw what they believe to be true, then encounter contradictions. Through cycles of sharing and learning, they can develop an accurate understanding that lasts beyond one lesson or experience.


No comments here