Moon Miscellany

by Deb on February 17, 2011

Full Moon

Little kids love the moon.  It is something they can identify easily, especially at night, and it’s something they can see change.

  1. Light from the moon is reflected sunlight, so we are seeing the moon’s day.  The line between the dark and light is called the terminator.
  2. The different sizes and shapes of the moon are called phases.  The new moon is black  because we are seeing the moon’s night side.  As it grows it is called waxing as we see the day move across until the full moon means day for the side we can see.  Then it wanes as the day keeps moving over until it gets to new moon again. Moon Phases
  3. In The Moon

  4. The moon can be out during the day, it can rise and set at any time.  It is just harder to see because the sun is so much brighter.
  5. The earth has something called a ‘tidal lock’ on the moon – it always has the same face towards us.
  6. Because we always see the same side people have studied it and made up stories, there are lots of different pictures people think they see in the moon like people or rabbits.
  7. The pictures are made from the dark, flat areas called maria or seas.  They don’t actually have water, they are enormous ancient lava flows.  There are lots on the side facing earth because the earth’s gravity pulled the ancient magma towards us.
  8. The far side of the moon doesn’t have maria, it has a lot of craters because the far side is more likely to be hit by asteroids, plus the old ones haven’t been covered over by lava.  moon topography
  9. Tides are caused by the moon’s gravity pulling a big lump of water up towards it.  As the moon goes around earth the bulge travels with it, this is how the tides move.  There are tides on land as well, they just aren’t as noticeable because the earth doesn’t get pulled up as much.
  10. The moon is getting further away.  It’s complicated, but because of the changes in the earth caused by tides and the spin of the earth, the moon is getting pulled forward and accelerated.  But conservation of angular momentum means it can’t get faster, so it is getting further away.
  11. The moon used to be much closer and go around earth faster, when it first formed it might have whipped around earth in as little as 5 days!
  12. It’s pure co-incidence that the sun and moon look the same size.
  13. Because the moon is so much smaller than earth gravity there is only about 1/6th what it is on earth.  This means you would only weigh 1/6th as much and would be able to jump much higher!
  14. There have been many theories how the moon formed.  The current best idea is that when the early earth was still solidifying an object about the size of Mars smashed into it.  This threw up lots of rocks from the crust that stuck together to form the moon.
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