The moon is one of the most familiar sights in our sky. As Earth’s only natural satellite, it has made us wait after the sun sets. But even though we see it almost every night, how much do you really know about the moon?
Here are 15 fascinating facts about our celestial neighbour that will give you a new appreciation for this rocky world:
1. The Moon is Slowly Moving Away From Earth
The moon is currently about 238,855 miles from Earth, but it is slowly drifting away from us. Scientists estimate that the moon is moving approximately 1.5 inches farther from our planet every year. In the distant future, the moon will appear smaller in the night sky because it will be farther away.
2. A Person’s Weight on the Moon is About 1/6 Their Weight on Earth
Because the moon has much lower gravity than Earth, a person who weighs 150 pounds on our planet would weigh just 25 pounds on the surface of the moon. Astronauts had to get used to this reduced gravity and take careful bounding steps when walking and jumping.
3. The Moon Has Moonquakes
Just as earthquakes can shake the ground on Earth, the surface of the moon also experiences moonquakes. Most are relatively small, but some can reach a magnitude of 5 on the Richter scale. The moonquakes are thought to be caused by the gravitational pull Earth exerts on the moon.
4. The Moon Has Its Own Time Zone
A lunar day lasts about 29 1⁄2 Earth days. As a result, sunrise and sunset on the moon follow a lunar time zone different than the 24-hour day we experience here on Earth. A full day-night cycle on the moon takes almost a month.
5. Only 12 People Have Ever Walked on the Moon
To date, just 12 people have ever set foot on the moon. All were male American astronauts who made the journey between 1969 and 1972 during NASA’s Apollo program. The last person to walk on the lunar surface was Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan in December 1972.
6. The Moon Has No Atmosphere
Unlike Earth, the moon has no atmosphere to hold in heat or gases. This means the surface temperature can range from a frigid -290°F to a scorching 260°F as the moon rotates. Without an atmosphere, the moon is exposed to meteoroids that constantly bombard its surface.
7. The Moon Always Shows the Same Face to Earth
The moon is tidally locked with Earth, meaning the same side always faces our planet. This happens because the time it takes the moon to rotate on its axis is the exact amount of time it takes to orbit Earth. So we only see about 59% of the moon’s surface.
8. Lunar Dust is Annoyingly Sticky
The fine soil on the moon’s surface is sharp and clingy, almost like powdered glass. Astronauts found lunar dust stuck to their spacesuits and helmets, causing irritation. Future moon settlers will have to find ways to deal with this annoying moon dust.
9. The Moon Has Its Own Oceans
Well, sort of. In 2009, NASA confirmed the discovery of hundreds of small ponds and even seas of water ice in the moon’s craters near the north and south poles. These cold, salty “oceans” may contain as much as 600 million tons of ice.
10. The Moon Helps Stabilize Earth’s Climate
The moon’s gravitational pull produces the ocean tides on Earth. This movement of water helps stabilize our climate and moderate temperatures. Without the moon, the Earth could wobble on its axis, causing huge climate swings.
11. The Moon Was Once Part of Earth
According to the most prominent theory of the moon’s origins, a Mars-sized object collided with early Earth about 4.5 billion years ago. The debris formed a ring around Earth that eventually coalesced into the moon. This explains why the moon has a similar composition to Earth.
12. The Moon Appears Larger on the Horizon
Ever notice how the moon looks absolutely huge when it’s near the horizon? This is an optical illusion. When the moon is high in the sky, there are no reference points so it seems smaller. Near the horizon, objects like buildings and trees give it scale.
13. The Moon is Covered in Human Junk
After six manned NASA missions to the moon, astronauts left behind about 400,000 pounds of material. This includes over 70 vehicles, lots of scientific equipment, film magazines, and bags of waste. Future moon missions may have to clean up the clutter.
14. The Moon Has Inspired Hundreds of Songs
As one of the most recognizable objects in the night sky, it’s no surprise the moon has been the subject of many famous tracks. From Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album, the moon has been a muse for art.
15. A Full Moon Can Affect Your Sleep
Research indicates that the bright light of a full moon can disrupt normal sleep patterns. The phenomenon is called “lunar insomnia” since the moonlight decreases melatonin levels. So if you have trouble sleeping during a full moon, blame it on the moon!
The moon may seem familiar, but it still holds many fascinating secrets. As lunar exploration continues, we will keep learning new and exciting facts about Earth’s celestial companion. Its history is our history, and its future may one day be our future as we establish settlements and maybe even colonies there. The moon has always inspired wonder, and many mysteries remain for us to uncover.