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Facts about the Moon

These pictures show what the Moon looks like during an eclipse.
These pictures show what the Moon looks like during an eclipse.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Moon is one of the most recognizable things in space and it is also one of the most familiar sights in the night sky on Planet Earth. There are many moons in the Solar System but only one can be seen by people on Earth. The Earth’s moon is also the fifth largest in the Solar System. The distance between the Earth and the moon is usually around 238,857 miles but this occasionally varies because the Moon orbits the Earth every 27 days. In fact, the ocean tides on Earth are controlled by the gravitational pull from the Moon.

Full Moons can resemble the top of shining light bulbs.
Full Moons can resemble the top of shining light bulbs.
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Of all the planets and masses in the Solar System, the Moon is unique because it is somewhere that humans have ventured. In 1966 the Russian’s successfully landed an unmanned spacecraft on the surface of the Moon. Then, in 1969, the United States of America sent a manned spacecraft to the Moon. This spacecraft was named Apollo 11 and it contained Neil Armstrong, the first man who walked on the Moon!

Although the Moon has many important functions in nature, it is also an incredibly beautiful sight that has influenced people to write many songs and feature it in stories and artwork. “The Man on the Moon” is an especially famous story that is derived from people looking at the Moon and seeing a man’s face smiling down at them.

Below are some facts about the Moon:

• The Moon is the Earth’s only natural satellite. A natural satellite is a space body that orbits a planet, a planet like object or an asteroid.

• Mons Huygens is the tallest mountain on the Moon, it is 4700 metres tall, just over half the height of Mt Everest (8848m).

• The side of the Moon that we can see from Earth is called the near side while the other side is called the far side (it is sometimes referred to as “the dark side” despite the fact that it illuminated by the Sun just as much as the near side).

• The effect of gravity is only about one fifth (17%) as strong on the surface of the Moon compared to the strength of gravity on the surface of the Earth.

• The Moon rotates on its axis in around the same length of time it takes to orbit the Earth. Hence, from the Earth we only ever see around 60% of its surface (or 50% at any one time).

• The far side of the Moon looks quite different due to its lack of maria (ancient pools of solidified lava).

• The surface of the Moon features a huge number of impact craters from comets and asteroids that have collided with the surface over time. Because the Moon lacks an atmosphere or weather these craters remain well preserved.

• A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth is between the Sun and the Moon.

• Although research is continuing, most scientists agree that the Moon features small amounts of water.

• The Moon is very hot during the day but very cold at night. The average surface temperature of the Moon is 107 degrees Celsius during the day and -153 degrees Celsius at night.

• Some of the phases of the Moon are: New Moon, Crescent, First Quarter, Waxing Gibbous, Full Moon, Waning Gibbous, Last Quarter, Crescent, and the New Moon.