Top 5 Interesting things about the Moon

Top 5 Interesting things about the Moon

credit: Google

 What makes the Earth and the Moon Special?

There are eight planets in our solar system, and most have moons, but there is something special about the Earth and its Moon.

This is why some scientists do not consider the Earth and its Moon to be a typical planet- moon system, but prefer to think of it as a ‘doubt planet’.

 How was the Moon formed?

It is probably that the large moons of Jupiter and Saturn were formed from the solar nebula, at the same time as their planets. The smaller moons, on the other hand, are more likely to be captured asteroids.

According to current theories, our Earth collided with another, Mars sized, proto-planet 4.5 billion years ago, shortly after the earth had been formed. This caused a large part of the Earth’s crust – not most of the other planet – to be hurled into space.

 The newly formed Moon was probably not between 20,000 km and 30,000 km away from Earth and because of its proximity, caused massive tidal fluctuations on the surface of the young planet. These tidal forces acted to ensure that, firstly, the Earth’s rotational speed slowed down, and secondly that the Moon moved further away from the earth. The distance between Earth and Moon is now 3,84,400 km on average, and this distance continues to increase by 3.7 cm a year.

What is the man in the Moon?

Several prominent dark areas are visible with the naked eye on the surface of the Moon. These, with the aid of a little imagination, can be made to look like a face, popularly known in children’s stories as ‘the man in the Moon’. Astronomers christened these dark areas mare (plural, maria), which is the Latin word for sea. However, these are not seas, but vast plains that were once flooded not by water but by molten lava.

The lava solidified into a rock known as basalt, which is darker than the rocks that make up the rest of the lava plains that there are on the rest of the Moon’s surface and this has led scientists to conclude that the maria are younger than the Moon itself. They were formed about 4 billion years ago, when several large meteorites struck the Moon.

The Moon turns once on its axis in the time it takes for it to orbit the Earth, which is why the same side always faces us. This characteristic of the Moon’s orbit – known as synchronous rotation came about as a consequence of the tidal effect of the earth on the Moon. The Moon does not have any oceans or seas, and hence no water to ebb and flow, but the earth’s gravitational field does cause the surface of the Moon to rise and fall, and this effect has gradually slowed the Moon’s rotation to a point where it now matches its orbital period,

Although we always see the same craters and seas, thanks to the elliptical shape of the Moon’s orbit, our angle of vision does shift slightly, which means we are able to see just over half about 59% of the Moon’s surface from Earth. Nobody knew that the far side of the Moon looked like until space probes were able to photograph it.

How do we know that there may be water on the Moon?

The Moon is a completely dry, airless world, and strong sunlight in the vacuum of space would cause any free water to evaporate immediately. Nevertheless, there may well be water ice on some parts of the Moon’s surface. Because of the orientation of its spin axis, there are no seasons on the surface of the Moon, as there are on earth.

This means that during the course of a year the amount of sunlight reaching areas close to the lunar poles varies very little, with some parts being permanently shielded from the Sun by crater walls. In these areas, with temperatures of -230°Cit is possible that ice brought to the Moon by comets early in the history of the solar system could still be stored in the soil. Results obtained from several lunar probes seems to suggest that large amount of ice are present close to the lunar poles, although this has not been confirmed by recent radar surveys conducted from Earth.

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