The Earth and Moon System
All About The Moon
Did you know that the Latin word for moon is luna, which actually 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 the Earth's diameter, and 1/81th of its mass. Relatively speaking it's Earth's little buddy, but really its not so little. 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. To not cause confusion, when I refer to natural satellite, I am meaning a planets moons. This keeps things simple since Galileo gave our moon the name Moon, before it was discovered that other planets also have moons. 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.
Moon Tidal Wave
One of the interesting things about the moon is that there are tidal waves on land. The land around the equator of the moon will actually raise in the fashion of a wave 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, water was in fact discovered on the moon on the northern lunar pole. In fact, a lot of water was found there, 600 million metric ton to be exact or as we would understand it approximately 158 billion US gallons. One article actually stated that there is "enough water to fulfill all of Seattle's water needs for three years."
Since the poles are really cold 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).
A Full Moon Up Close
Moon 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 really knows why. Many years ago, it is believed 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, and now we have the moon. Although when studying the age of the moon and the Earth they have been found to be the same age, which for supporters of the creation story as opposed to the collision of Mars, I do have to say hmmmm....
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 for the moon to always be facing us with the same side.This slow orbit is not as slow as you might think. The moon is actually orbiting the Earth at 2,288 miles per hour (3,683 kilometers per hour), just slightly faster than one would travel with their car.... just 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 perfect 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. This has been determined by bouncing laser beams from the Earth off laser reflectors that astronauts have placed on the moon. This 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 actually has earthquakes. Wait? Can it be called an earthquake if it's on the moon? Actually they are called moonquakes and they happen less frequent and are much less severe than those of the Earth. They are caused by the tidal waves halfway under the surface, which is essentially 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 very little 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 lightest object in the night sky, the moon itself is actually 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 actually find that the Earth shines brighter than does our Moon. In fact, the only reason why there is full moon, half moon, etc, is because that is the amount of the Moon that is being illuminated by the sun. When we see the whole thing, it is because the Earth is not blocking the suns rays on the moon, when we see less, well I'm sure you get the point.
So why is there dark patches on the Earth, well due to volcanic lava. You thought I got side-tracked huh? The dark patches are actually dried lava that has settled in craters in the moon. The craters were caused by meteors hitting the moon, so when lava would flow, they would fill the craters causing dark gray matter to appear that we can actually see from Earth. Meteors more commonly hit the moon than Earth due to the fact that since Earth has such an atmosphere that most meteors that attempt to hit the Earth burn up. That doesn't mean we have not been hit, 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 is a lot more craters on that side of the moon than on the side of the moon we see everyday. 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 read about black holes and the mystery behind them.
© 2010 Angela Michelle
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