Magnification vs. Resolution: Can you see the flag on the Moon?

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This fun and simple hands-on astronomy activity lets learners explore the difference between telescope magnification and resolution. They will learn that observing instruments, whether telescopes or their eyes, have limited resolution. Higher magnification might make it easier for the human eye to perceive the detail the telescope is capable of, but the telescope cannot collect any more detail (in other words, get better resolution) with higher magnifications. The activity simulates this with diagrams and explanations. The PDF contains step-by-step instructions, photos, presentation tips, background information, and ready-to-print activity handouts.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 4 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Moon image cards (from PDF)
  • star mask template (from PDF)
  • black construction paper
  • flashlight
  • scissors
  • pins and nails of various thickness
  • adhesive tape
  • Activity requires access to a telescope (not included in activity cost).


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Astronomy
      • Stars and Galaxies
    • Solar System
      • The Moon
  • Physical Sciences
    • Light and Optics
      • Lenses and Mirrors
  • Mathematics
    • Measurement
      • Size and Scale
  • Life Sciences
    • Human Senses and Perception
      • Vision


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see


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Access Rights:

  • Free access