The Earth-Moon System
All About The Moon
Did you know that the Latin word for moon is luna, which means, "earth's little buddy?" How much do you know about Earth's Little Buddy? For instance, how little is our little buddy? It is one-fourth of the Earth's diameter and 1/81th of its mass. It's Earth's little buddy, despite not being so small. The moon is the Earth's only natural satellite, and as far as the planets' satellites or moons go, ours is the largest in comparison to the size of its planet. A natural satellite refers to a planet's moons. This phrase keeps things simple since Galileo gave our moon the name moon before others learned that other moons exist on other planets. Did I lose you there? The moon is the fifth largest satellite in the universe. If you are a statistics person, the actual diameter is 2,159 miles or 3,476 kilometers. The volume is actually 49 times smaller than the Earth, which means 49 moons could fit inside the Earth.
Tidal Waves on the Moon
One of the exciting things about the moon is that there are tidal waves on land. The land around the moon's equator rises like a wave. It reaches as high as 21 inches or 55 centimeters in any given spot along the equator at least once a day.
As far as tidal waves in the water on the moon, well, I'm not sure, but just this past year in 2009, scientists discovered water on the moon on the northern lunar pole. Six hundred million metric tons of water lie there, or as we would understand, it approximately 158 billion US gallons. One article stated that there is "enough water to fulfill all of Seattle's water needs for three years."
Since the poles are frigid even on the moon, the water would probably be in the form of ice. How cold you may be asking. Well, the moon's surface does not have the regulation that Earth has, and in one day, the moon will vary from 253 Fahrenheit (123 Celsius) to -387 Fahrenheit (-233 Celsius).
Moving Away From Earth?
Every year the moon is drifting further and further away from the Earth. Scientists believe at the rate of about four centimeters or one and a half inches a year, although no one knows why. Many years ago, scientists thought that the moon was much closer to the Earth. Some even believe that the moon came into the Earth's atmosphere due to an explosion from Mars, and debris (known as our moon) went flying towards the Earth, which is how we have the moon. Although, scientists discovered that the moon and the Earth are the same age.
We do know, though, that the same side of the moon is always facing the Earth. That means that Each Lunar Day is equal to one Earth Month for us. Okay, technically 27.3 days, but pretty close to a month. This difference allows the moon to always be facing us on the same side. This slow orbit is not as slow as you might think. The moon is orbiting the Earth at 2,288 miles per hour (3,683 kilometers per hour), just slightly faster than one would travel in their car, but only slightly.
As it stands, the moon is always between 225,740 miles (363,300 kilometers) and 251,970 miles (405,500 kilometers) away from Earth. The reason for the variance is because the moon moves around the Earth in an elliptical fashion, not a perfectly circular orbit. That means that you could place thirty Earths between the real Earth and moon to make up the distance we are from the moon. They learned this by bouncing laser beams from the Earth off laser reflectors that astronauts have placed on the moon, which allows us to be able to measure that distance.
Does the Moon Orbit the Earth?
Earthquakes and Volcanic Activity
Did you know that the moon has earthquakes? Wait? Can it be called an earthquake if it's on the moon? They are, called moonquakes and they happen less frequently and are much less severe than those of the Earth. Tidal waves halfway under the surface cause earthquakes. These tidal waves are primarily caused by the disruptions of the distance between the Earth and the moon.
So why is the moon gray? Well, simply because it is residue from a long history of volcanic history. You will find that the moon has a minimal amount of color to it. There is gray, light gray, dark gray, and all the shades in between, no beautiful green or blue or red, just gray. Although it is the brightest object in the night sky, the moon itself is much darker than the Earth, since the moon itself does not produce its own light. The light we see off the moon is just a reflection of the sun from behind the Earth. If we were to stare at the moon and the Earth within the Universe, we would find that the Earth shines brighter than does our moon. The only reason why there is a full moon, half-moon, etc., is because that is the amount of the moon that the sun illuminates. When we see the whole thing, it is because the Earth is not blocking the sun's rays on the moon; when we see less, well, I'm sure you get the point.
So why are there dark patches on the Earth, well due to volcanic lava? You thought I got side-tracked, huh? The dark spots are dried lava that has settled in craters in the moon. The holes were caused by meteors hitting the moon, so when lava would flow, they would fill the cavities causing dark gray matter to appear that we can see from Earth. Meteors more commonly hit the moon than Earth because Earth has such an atmosphere that most meteors that attempt to hit the Earth burn up. That doesn't mean meteors have not hit the Earth, but most were so long ago, that the rain and wind and other weather matters have covered up the damage long ago.
Oddly enough, the side of the moon that is facing us has more volcanic activity. The other side of the moon is much thicker, and lava is less likely to seep through. Although if we were to see that side, we would find that there are a lot more craters on that side of the moon than on the side of the moon we see every day. Although these craters on not filled with the lava and do not appear to have the dark gray spots that we call maria.
The moon fascinates us, and we will always be thirsting to learn more about Earth's little buddy. Hopefully, soon, we, as in astronauts, will be able to take another successful journey to the moon. Who knows, maybe one is being planned as we speak if the solar system fascinates you, how about reading about black holes and the mystery behind them.
- NASA. Accessed February 27, 2018. https://lunarscience.nasa.gov/
- Paulberry. "RebelMouse vs. WordPress VIP." RebelMouse. January 31, 2018. Accessed February 27, 2018. http://news.discovery.com/space/is-there-water-on-the-moon-bucketloads.html
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz