12 things you need to know about the Moon
Astronomers have over the years have discovered a great deal about the chemistry and physical features of the moon using earth-based and scientifically improved telescopes. In particular, the moon could never have been part of the earth according to suggestions from the samples collected by Apollo astronauts. In fact, the origin of the moon is not known till date as it is still very much a mystery.
The moon which is the earth’s only natural satellite has so many myths surrounding it such as; when a full moon appears the witches and wizards surface and also that the Muslim faithful break their fast when a full moon appears, some tribes in the world worshiping it as their god and so on. The moon over the years has been a subject of philosophers’ and scientists’ speculation not excluding famous poetic praises.
The revolution of astronomical science started from 1966 with vast amount of data collected till date through the manned space flights and the unmanned space findings suggests that there is a great satisfaction in the scientific accomplishments and discovery about the moon with the urgency to learn more about the other parts of the solar system. Since 1973, after two decades of intense government funding the space and research projects were being cut back. But the knowledge obtained in the two decades from lunar probes, from spacecrafts and landings on the moon is greater than that obtained in all preceding decades although exciting work of discovery is currently still going on.
According to a layman’s definition, the moon is simply the earth’s source of light at night. But in a more elaborate way, the moon is a round object that moves round the earth once every 271/2 days and serves as the earth’s natural satellite which shines at night as a result of light reflected from the sun. In a calendar year, we normally have the half-moon, full moon and a new moon
Early lunar probes and landing
Rangers Series: The first ‘hard’ landing on the moon was by Ranger series 7, 8 and 9 from 1964-1965. It was also known as the direct crash-landings. The team televised the photographs of the moon as they approached it back to the earth. These photographs were accurate enough to show surface details of the moon as small as one-third (1/3) meter, which is three (3000) thousand times as good as any one you can actually get with the best telescopes on the earth.
Soviet Luna 9: This team in January 1966 made first soft landing on the moon (as the first landing was hard by Ranger series) and for three days sent back to the earth the first close-up photographs of the moon.
Surveyor Series: This landing was called Surveyor series I, II VI and VII because they analyzed the moon’s inner surface. They were launched between 30th May, 1966 and November 1967 and all made successful soft landings on the moon and sent back thousands of close-up photographs of the moon’s inner system. These lunar probes shown and analyzed the various rocks and soil samples within the moon.
Lunar Orbiters: There were five lunar Orbiters that were launched between August 1966 and August 1967 and they all circled round the moon in an attempt to carefully calculate the parking orbits from which they televised back to the earth numerous very detailed photographs of all faces of the moon. These pictures became very important and necessary as they were used to choose landing sites for the first human landing of the moon by the Apollo Astronauts.
Apollo series: The Apollo program was conceived early in 1960 and this became one of the major breakthrough and milestone in the history of astronomical findings. The soft landing of the manned Apollo astronauts yielded the needed results as to the return to the earth of hundreds of pounds of rocks, dust and soil samples together with thousands of real pictures from the moon. The mobile Soviet laboratory explored the moon’s surface for many days and sent back vital information before returning to the earth.
Mass of the Moon
The moon appears to have different and distinct layers of density materials on its surface. The moon’s crust forms the densest material which extends down to a depth of about 40 miles. While the moon’s core which has a radius of about 400 miles, appears to be molten and contains about five per cent (5%) of the moon’s mass. The moon’s mass could not be accurately ascertained until Lunar Orbiters were placed around its orbit and also after astronauts landed on its surface. So today, the mass of the moon can be calculated accurately from the measured period of Lunar Orbiter around the moon and its mean distance from the moon’s center in Kepler’s third law or from the value of the acceleration of gravity measured by astronauts on the moon’s surface.
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Vital Information and findings about the moon
1) The moon’s objectionable origin could have been from a condensed gravitational source, a general material about the same time as the earth.
2) The moon has been in existence billions of years ago because the oldest rocks brought back from the moon by Apollo astronauts are about 4.2 billion years old.
3) The mass of the moon is eighty-one (81) times smaller than that of the earth.
4) The mean distance from our planet earth to the moon is 238,000 miles (about 384,400 Km) and the actual distance at any point on earth varies from 252,710 to 221,463 miles.
5) The Maria (known as the moon’s sea) are all chemically, physically and geometrically similar to one another
6) That the floors of this Maria consist largely of a thick layer of grainy basalt most likely formed from cooled molten lava and is similar to the basalt that can be found on planet earth.
7) That the entire surface of the moon was in a molten state at some time in the past probably due to either intense meteoritic bombardment or due to heating by radioactive material in the moon’s crust.
8) The highlands of the moon are also covered with basalt and contain only traceable elements of ilmenite which explains their light appearances.
9) The moon has no atmosphere
10) The most abundant element in the moon’s lunar rocks and soil is oxygen (58%), silicon (20%), aluminum, calcium, iron, magnesium and titanium form the remaining 22% with traceable radioactive materials found.
11) No traces of water in any form or in form of organic compounds exist in the moon.
12) The moon according to findings was probably always volcanic in nature with intense moonquakes but the volcanoes have been quite inactive. But the moonquakes still occurs as the energy presently released per year in moonquakes, as monitored by seismometers left by the Apollo team on the moon’s surface, is less than one-billionth of that released by earthquakes.