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The Moon has fascinated humans since the dawn of time, prompting them to make up tales and myths about the Earth’s natural satellite. It was only a few centuries ago when people began studying the Moon from afar, and only 50 years ago when a human first set foot on it. Knowledge about the Earth’s sky companion has since grown, but that has not waned people’s curiosity about it.
Below are some of the interesting things discovered about the Moon since it was first studied by ancient astronomers.
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The Moon’s pull on the Earth’s oceans slows down our planet’s rotation. According to Business Insider, an American financial and business news website, the English barrister and astronomer George Darwin was the first to discover that the gravitational pull of the Moon, which partly affects the ebb and flow of ocean tides, slows down the Earth’s rotation by 0.002 seconds each century. Although it doesn’t appear to make much of a difference, that seemingly small slow down adds to over billions and billions of years.
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The Moon’s water jumps around
After discovering water on the lunar surface in 2009, NASA went on to find out that water molecules around the Moon move around as the satellite’s surface warms and cools throughout the day.
The water remains stagnant until the lunar midday, said Live Science, a science news website. It is at this time that the water molecules heat up and floats around the Moon’s atmosphere until it reaches an area cool enough to make it settle back down on the lunar surface.
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There’s a different name for each full moon
Each month, a different name is given to a full moon as per the naming system developed by the Native Americans. For instance, January’s full moon is called a “wolf moon” based on the howling of hungry wolves during winter. The full moon in June is called the “strawberry moon,” September’s is called the “harvest moon,” and December’s full moon is called the “cool moon.”
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The Moon is shrinking
Not only is the natural satellite shrinking, but it is also experiencing a lot of moonquakes as it contracts and tugs on surface cracks. The moonquakes are partly due to the released energy from the formation of thrust faults or scarps. Scarps spread across the lunar surface and are said to be no more than 50 million years old, according to Live Science.
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It is the fifth-largest moon in the solar system
There are over 150 moons orbiting the planets in the solar system. Earth’s natural satellite is the fifth largest with a diameter of 3,475 kilometers. The largest satellite is Jupiter’s Ganymede (5,262 kilometers) followed by Saturn’s Titan (5,150 kilometers), Jupiter’s Callisto (4,821 kilometers), and Io (3,643 kilometers).
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The Moon is two-faced
No, the Earth’s natural satellite won’t betray humans but it does show two distinct surfaces: one with a thinner and smoother crust (the near side) and a thicker side dotted with impact craters (the far side). The difference on the surface baffled scientists for decades, prompting them to conduct research on what is the reason for it.
In a recent paper, researchers argued that the distinctive sides could be the outcome of a massive impact on the lunar surface that left a huge crater across the entire nearside.
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It lost weight
During the lunar missions between 1969 and 1972, astronauts took 842 pounds of Moon material back to Earth. Business Insider said NASA has reported 2,200 separate samples of "lunar rocks, core samples, pebbles, sand, and dust" from the lunar surface were brought home to Earth in the course of six flights. The samples were collected from six different lunar-exploration sites.