WHETHER IT WAS BELIEVED TO HAVE BEEN A BIG BALL OF CHEESE, HOME TO THE MAN IN THE MOON, OR POSSESS THE POWER TO TURN PEOPLE INTO WEREWOLVES, THE MOON HAS BEEN A PERPETUAL SOURCE OF WONDER FROM ANCIENT TIMES TO TODAY.
JUST ONE QUARTER THE SIZE OF EARTH, THE MOON IS SMALL COMPARED TO OTHER MORE SPECTACULAR BODIES IN THE UNIVERSE. BUT, SINCE IT’S ONLY 240-THOUSAND MILES AWAY, A RELATIVELY SHORT DISTANCE WHEN COMPARED WITH THE VASTNESS OF SPACE, NOTHING LOOMS LARGER IN THE NIGHT SKY.
MANY SCIENTISTS BELIEVE THE MOON FORMED ABOUT 4.6 BILLION YEARS AGO. ONE THEORY IS THAT A HUGE ASTEROID, STRUCK EARTH WITH SUCH FORCE, THAT ROCK AND DEBRIS WERE SHOT INTO ORBIT AROUND THE PLANET LIKE THE RINGS OF SATURN. OVER TIME, THIS CLOUD OF FRAGMENTS CAME TOGETHER TO FORM THE MOON.
ITS ENTIRE SURFACE IS POCKED WITH TENS OF THOUSANDS OF CRATERS.
IT WASN’T UNTIL GALILEO POINTED A TELESCOPE AT THE MOON IN 1609 THAT WE GOT THE FIRST CLOSE LOOK AT ITS FEATURES.
The moon orbits the earth like the earth orbits the sun. Since the moon doesn’t shine on its own, but only reflects light from the sun, we see more or less of it during its monthly revolution, depending on its position. We call these varying views, phases.
When the moon is on the far side of the earth, away from the sun, the moon is fully illuminated or full. As the moon travels around the earth, we can only see the sunlight falling on part of it, resulting in crescent moons and half moons.
When the moon is directly between the earth and the sun, light falls on the far side of the moon, blocked from earth’s view. The moon is dark, or new. IT TAKES ABOUT 29 DAYS FOR THE MOON TO COMPLETE ITS CYCLE FROM FULL TO FULL.
On rare occasions, a full moon passes through earth’s shadow, and the sun’s light is blocked. This is called a total lunar eclipse.
the moon has quite an effect on our planet. As Earth turns, the moon’s gravity tugs on our oceans creating the tides. Tidal forces have carved our planet’s coastlines, buoyed its polar icecaps, and influenced the rhythms of life.
Our nearest celestial neighbor is a lot more than a beautiful view.