The moon is a celestial body that moves around the earth and has for a long time been considered as the earth’s only lasting natural satellite. Kopal, (2013) argues that among the other satellites in the solar system, the moon has been ranked second after the Lo satellite of Jupiter in terms of densities, with due consideration to those satellites whose densities have been determined. Astronomers have however tried to argue out the exact period, in which the moon could have been formed by placing it around 5 billion years, slightly after the formation of the earth, however, this has remained a mystery. The moon has been regarded as the earth’s closest celestial neighbor at a distance of about 384, 400 km, and due to this fact, we have been able to acquire as much knowledge as possible about it. (Kopal, 2013)
Facts about the moon
As it is already known about the moon being a celestial body, it is important to note that in addition to that, it is also the earth’s permanent natural satellite. On most nights during a clear sky, the moon is always visible while standing outside. Astronomers have argued that the moon measures 3, 475 km when measured from end to end. The moon is placed at a distance of about 384,402 km away from the earth and has been confirmed by astronauts, it takes three full days to make a successful landing on the moon. (Hall, 2016)
The surface of the moon is said to be covered with regolith, this is a combination of fine dust and rocky debris originating from meteoroid actions dating billions of year. Other facts worth noting about the moon include:
- The moon is always in synchronous rotation, this means that the same of the moon is always facing the earth.
- There is no dark side of the moon, this is because all the sides of the moon receive the same amount of light, rotating on its axis, and only one side of the moon is visible from the earth.
- The moon is responsible for the rise and fall of the tides, the bulges in the earth are due to the gravitational pull that the moon exerts
- The surface environment of the moon is comprised of mountains, craters and ‘lakes’ of hardened lava.
History and formation of the moon
From the ancient times, the moon has been regarded as the brightest object in the sky after the sun; the Romans had initially referred to the moon as Luna, it moves around the earth once after every 29 days, the speed at which the moon moves around the earth has calculated to be 3700 km/hr. The moon was first visited by a Russian spacecraft in the year 1959, to successfully become the first celestial body to be visited by humans. (Lefeber, 2016)
Several theories have been brought forward concerning how the moon could have been probably formed, however, the recent findings have given the indications that it could have been formed by very big collisions that tore off big portions of the earth. Scientists have tried to argue that the moon could have been formed from the solidified pieces of the earth that were knocked off the molten earth by an impactor considered to be 10 % of the mass of earth.
From the recent researches that have shown a lot of similarities coupled with the abundance of tungsten element both in the earth and on the moon, this theory on the formation of the moon has become to be widely accepted in the modern-day society.
However other theories have as well been brought up regarding the moon’s formation with some stating that the earth could have attracted the moon from Venus, however, these theories do not have well-reasoned ideas like the big impact theory.
The structure of the moon
Kopal, (2013) states that the moon just like other celestial bodies and the planets has a core that covers approximately 1-2 % of the total mass of the moon. The core of the moon has been thought to contain mostly iron and considerable amounts of sulfur and other unidentified elements. After the core lies the rocky mantle composed of presumably dense rocks rich in iron and magnesium. The crustal layer comes last and is assumed to be 70 km deep, the outer crust is broken and wrinkled as a result of the impacts it had received during the formation of the moon.
Surface composition of the moon
Pictures from the moon taken by satellites have shown the surface of the moon to be covered with rocks and some craters probably formed due to the action of the asteroids that occurred millions of years ago and considering that there is no weather in the moon, these craters have since not been altered. By considerable percentages, the following elements have been discovered o the surface of the moon; silicon, chromium, magnesium, titanium, and aluminum.
Astronomers have reported the presence of water on the surface of the moon, which they argued that its origin could have been from the underground.
Other observations made by spacecraft have indicated the presence of water in the slopes facing the south pole however these quantities cannot be in any way be compared with the vast dry land.
The temperatures of the moon surface range within the extremities from a maximum 1270 C and -2790 C.
The atmosphere of the moon
Technically the atmosphere of the moon can be referred to as an exosphere; this is because it is composed of very thin layers of gases. The atmosphere in the moon has no air to breathe neither are breezes present, this is evident as the flags planted by the Apollo astronauts were not able to fly on their own. The atmospheric gaseous composition is scant such that the gases are spread out that they rarely collide with each another, comparing the moons atmospheric composition and the earth’s composition; it is found out that there are only 100 molecules per 1cm3 as compared to the earth’s 100 billion molecules per 1cm3. (Lefeber, 2013)
Other elements such as oxygen, helium, and methane have been detected to be present within this atmosphere. The atmosphere of the moon at the moment is considered as inhabitable however scientists have brought up arguments touching of outgassing which they have consequently tried to argue could help in replenishing the harsh atmosphere. They have argued that gases escape from within the atmosphere due to the radioactive decay and during events such as moonquakes, the release of these gases has been considered to help in making the atmosphere in the moon better.
Relationship between the earth and the moon
The gravitational pull from the moon has been associated with the predictable bulges in the earth’s seas; these bulges are always known as tides. High tides occur when the seawater rises upwards while low tides occur when the seawater drops.
Apart from being responsible for the tides, this pull from the moon has been found to slow down the motion of the earth to successfully increase the length of the day by 2.3 milliseconds, this has brought a further argument that the energy lost by the earth during this braking is subsequently picked up by the moon enabling it to drift further away from the earth by and an assumable distance of about 3.8 cm per year.
The gravitational pull from the moon has been considered to play a very active role on earth by successfully reducing the shaking effect caused by the rotation of the earth on the axis; this has helped in making the earth a habitable place. There are ongoing studies with suggestions that the earth’s gravitational pull could have influenced the odd shape of the moon during the early stages of its formation.
The lunar eclipse
During a lunar eclipse, the moon, Earth and the sun are always in a straight line, this gives the implication that for a lunar eclipse to occur, the earth has to position itself between the sun and moon followed by a careful cast of the earth’s shadow on the moon. This kind of eclipse is only possible during a full moon.
Despite the moon and the earth sharing common features, the moon has not been considered as a planet because the International Astronomical Union have argued that the moon is a natural satellite can only be considered as such and not as a planet
What makes the moon glow?
The moon does not shine on its own but rather it reflects the light from the sun onto the surface of the earth. The glow from the surface of the earth can at times be seen as changing shapes, this is not, however, the case; what happens is this, as the moon is orbiting around the earth, different portions are lit by the sun, these changes in the appearance of the moon from what we are able to see from the earth is known as moon phases
In conclusion, the study of the moon dates back to the period when unmanned space shuttles were sent to the moon to collect information and to date, these studies are still going on, for example, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been circling the Moon and sending back measurements since 2009. The moon can be considered as the only celestial body that has been visited, Armstrong and Aldrin were the first men to set foot on earth.
Hall, J. A. (2016). Life on Moon Worlds. In Moons of the Solar System (pp. 217-223). Springer, Cham.
Kopal, Z. (Ed.). (2013). Physics and Astronomy of the Moon. Academic Press.
Lefeber, R. (2016). Relaunching the moon agreement. Air and Space Law, 41(1), 41
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