The Moon is one of the largest existing natural satellites today and just so happens to be planet Earth’s only natural satellite. The Moon also is the second-densest satellite of which we know, ranking behind planet Jupiter.
Throughout history scientists have studied and researched the Moon and have uncovered and discovered unbelievable facts. On July 16, Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins, and Buzz Aldrin, were the first three astronauts to travel to the Moon successfully in Apollo 11. While Mike Collins stayed in orbit to take pictures and do research, Neil Armstrong was the first human to ever set foot on the actual surface of the Moon, followed behind by Buzz Aldrin. The two astronauts made history as they walked around the Moon’s surface for three hours, exploring that fascinating, small part of our solar system.
Much more about the Moon has been discovered through advanced technology and over time, since Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin, made history. If you thought that the Apollo 11 crew being sent off into outer space was a big deal, did you know that today a person can have a private memorial service that includes sending their ashes to the Moon? Oh and never mind that the Earth’s landfills that are polluting our own backyards, the Moon has similar issues with garbage and metal scraps left behind by previous trips to explore the somewhat still-mysterious and literally out-of-this-world satellite.
From damage-causing moonquakes, full moons affecting your sleep cycle, and even having its own separate time zone, here are the 15 Strangest Facts About Our Moon…
If you thought that planet Earth was the only celestial body that was capable of being rattled by earthquakes, think again. It’s been said that there are at least four different types of moonquakes. Vibrations from the impact of meteorites are one type of moonquake. Another type is a deep moonquake, which is more than 700 km below the moon’s surface and caused by tides. Thermal moonquakes happen when the moon’s cold crust grows when the sunlight hits it after a couple weeks of being in the cold freeze of the lunar night. Most of the quakes are mild and harmless, but research has shown that shallow earthquakes have measured as big as a magnitude of five, which can be known to crack plaster and move large pieces of furniture. As quakes on earth are known to only last about less than a minute, moonquakes have been known to last up to 10 minutes!
14. Moon Trash
One’s man’s trash is another man’s treasure! Who would have thought that Earth wasn’t the only environment that has built a significant collection of rubbish over the years? When Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong first landed on the moon, they left behind about 100 items before making their way back to Earth. But it’s not as though the two legendary astronauts littered the Moon on purpose. They were told by the Apollo 11 team to leave behind things to make room to bring back research materials, such as soil samples. Items included everything from urine containers and cameras to lunar overshoes. Along with personal belongings, the Moon is also home to a vast variety of scrap metal and plastic that are the remains of various spacecraft and rovers that have been sent to space to study the Moon. Because this “landfill” is technically open for anyone who visits space, some worry that others, such as other countries, may be able to tamper with this valuable and historic trash.
13. It Is Used As A Cemetery
Instead of being buried into the ground after one passes away, you can now have your remains sent to the Moon! Yep, that’s right, buried in outer space! Over 450 people’s cremated remains have been launched into space on private memorial spaceflights. On a side note, the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, was the first to ever have his cremated remains sent off into space, but they were later returned to earth after the craft that was carrying them completed the task of releasing a satellite. Today, there are several different companies including one called Elysium that have taken on the task of organizing space burials for less than $2,000. “Families now have the historic opportunity to commemorate their departed loved ones every night through the everlasting splendor and soft illumination of the Earth’s closest companion: the Moon,” a statement from Elysium read. I guess one can say that’s one way to make a statement even if you’re not physically there to make it!
12. It Has Lunar Dust
Lunar dust aka “moon dust” is made up of silicon dioxide glass created from meteoroids hitting the moon. It also contains much iron, calcium, and magnesium. Past astronauts that have been on the moon have described the unique dust as having a gun powder-like smell and taste, at times being unbearable to be around and has even been known to cause extraterrestrial hay fever. Years after Apollo 17’s astronaut Jack Schmitt was back from the journey, he recalled his unpleasant reaction with the dust. “When I took my helmet off after the first EVA, I had a significant reaction to the dust. My turbinate’s became swollen” he said. But no one is too sure exactly why lunar dust has such a strong and powerful odor and presence. Don Pettit, who has never been to the moon but is an ISS astronaut seems to maybe have an answer to the question: “Picture yourself in a desert on Earth. What do you smell? Nothing, until it rains. The air is suddenly filled with sweet, peaty odors. The moon is like a 4-billion-year-old desert. It’s incredibly dry. When moon dust comes in contact with moist air in a lunar module, you get the ‘desert rain’ effect–and some lovely odors.”
11. It Has Been Known To Affect Sleep Patterns
The next time you find yourself tossing and turning in your sleep, take a look out the window and examine if the moon is full. Studies have shown that a full moon actually does seem to affect one’s sleeping behavior. A sleep researcher at the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel in Switzerland, named Christian Cajochen, completed a study that examined the sleep patterns of more than 30 individuals. The study found that one’s brain activity that was related to sleep, dropped about 30% when there was a full moon. It also concluded that it took the individuals approximately five more minutes to fall asleep than normal and they ended up sleeping for about 20 minutes less than average. Circalunar rhythms may be to blame for these findings, and are known to be about a month in length, which plays out perfectly with the timing between two full moons.
10. It Has Its Own Time Zone And Special Watch
As if time zones aren’t confusing enough here on Earth! New York’s Hayden Planetarium’s Chief Astronomer Kenneth L. Franklin was the first to coin the term “lunation,” which is the amount of time it takes the moon to revolve around the earth, after Helbros Watches asked him to create a watch design to tell time on the moon. Each lunation is equivalent to 29.530589 Earth days. Franklin came up with Lunar Solar Time or LST based on meridians that are 12-degrees wide as opposed to 15-degree intervals on Earth. Instead of an hour, a “lunour” was created, along with “decilunours”, “centilunours”, and “millilunours.” At the time when the watch was made, Richard Nixon was President of the United States, so he received one as a gift. Another one was put on display at the Hayden Planetarium for years. Although the watch is one of a kind, not many others were interested in purchasing the design.
9. It’s Not As Old As We Thought
No one is 100% sure how the Moon came to be, but through much research and observation over the years, there is one conclusion that seems to be the most promising. The Moon is said to be approximately 4.53 billion years old. Yes you read that correctly…’B’ as in billions. The Moon is said to have formed after a large-sized object shot into space after the explosion, formed together and bonded, to create the Moon. In early years examining samples of rock from the Apollo 16 mission in 1972, researchers believed the moon was much older than 4.53 billion years. Thanks to modern-day science and technology, scientists have used new methods to discover a more accurate age of the natural satellite. Samples from the Apollo 16 mission were re-examined and cleaned of excess debris that interfered with the initial examination and revealed a more accurate age of the Moon. “Once we removed the contamination, we found that this sample is almost 100 million years younger than we expected,” a researcher from the Centre for Star and Planet Formation stated.
8. It Rules The Oceans’ Tides
Ever wonder why tides are low and high on the coastlines year round? Well, we can thank the Moon and its gravity for them! As the earth rotates around during the day, the gravity of the Moon affects different parts of the planets by pulling on them. Although planet Earth has a significantly larger mass than the Moon, because of its proximity, the gravity from it is able to move things around, hence causing tides. The Moon’s gravity even pulls on land, but it’s not strong enough to notice a difference. Since the coastlines are liquid, it’s much easier for water to be pushed and towards and away from the Moon. But high tides and low tides aren’t 100% of gravity’s doing; inertia also plays an opposite role in the making of tides. When the water that is closer to the Moon is being pulled towards it, the water farthest from the Moon is staying right where it is, thanks to inertia.
7. It’s Drifting Away From Earth
See you later Moon! It’s totally true, the Moon is slowly but surely drifting away from planet Earth. But hang on, there’s no possible way in your lifetime you’ll be able to even notice a difference. The Moon is very slowly drifting away from Earth…we’re talking only 3.78 centimeters a year! This time we’re turning the tables on the Earth’s tides for the cause of the drifting of the Moon. The gravitational force that the Moon has on the Earth, causes the Earth’s oceans to create a tidal bulge. Because of the way the Earth rotates, the Moon pushes it into a slightly higher orbit, which will eventually slow Earth’s rotation down, causing days to grow longer. In the beginning when the Earth was formed, each day was only five hours long! And we think that there aren’t enough hours in a day nowadays!
6. Only 12 People In History Have Walked On The Moon
In all of recorded history, only 12 people have stepped foot on the moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first two men to step foot on the Moon on the Apollo 11 mission on April 20, 1969. “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” were Armstrong’s famous words still remembered to this day, as he set foot on the Moon’s surface. Buzz Aldrin was next to join Neil Armstrong in making history, and described the Moon’s surface as, “magnificent desolation.” But although Armstrong and Aldrin were indeed the first two to step on our natural nightlight, Armstrong gave much praise to Apollo 11’s incredible team: “Every guy that’s setting up the tests, cranking the torque wrench, and so on, is saying, man or woman, ‘If anything goes wrong here, it’s not going to be my fault.’” After Apollo 11’s mission, 10 more astronauts have traveled and set foot on the Moon, but not one of them has been a woman.
5. It’s Not Round
Despite the countless bedtime stories, paintings, and even real-life photographs, the circle shape that the Moon appears to be is a total illusion. Believe it or not, the Moon is actually oval and egg-shaped. Once again, tides can be blamed for this interesting fact about the Moon. It has been said that early tides heated the Moon’s edges in various different places, thus giving it an uneven shape on its sides. Ian Garrick-Bethell, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, once broke down the explanation of the Moon’s shape to the Agence France-Presse: “If you imagine spinning a water balloon, it will start to flatten at the poles and bulge at the equator,” Garrick-Bethell said in a written statement. “On top of that you have tides due to the gravitational pull of the Earth, and that creates sort of a lemon shape with the long axis of the lemon pointing at the Earth.”
4. People See Different Shapes In It
The various images humans claim to see while gazing at the Moon are called Lunar pareidolia. Since the Moon’s surface is a combination of light and dark areas, people all around the world have claimed to see different kinds of shapes including animals, humans, and objects. Two of the most famous shapes that have been spotted over and over again throughout time are The Man in The Moon and The Moon Rabbit. Multiple variations of the Man in the Moon have been spotted; some sightings include a human’s face, while others have seen a man’s silhouette. In China, Japan, and Korea, people have seen a rabbit making rice cakes. Other shapes people have seen in the moon include a woman, a toad, a tree, and handprints. The next time you’re outside at night, look up in the sky. What do you see?
3. It’s Huge But The Earth Is Still Bigger
As the brightest object in the night sky, the Moon appears to be rather large to us…and don’t get us wrong… it is! But still not as big as the Earth! The Moon is just a little over ¼ of the Earth’s size, and believe it or not, isn’t even the largest moon in the solar system. With a radius of 1,079.6 miles (1,737.5 kilometers), diameter of 2,159.2 miles (3,475 km) and equatorial circumference of 6,783.5 miles (10,917 km), the Moon is still the 5th largest moon in the sky, but appears larger than others since it is so close to Earth in proximity. When comparing the Moon’s size to the Earth’s, the Moon’s surface area is approximately 14.6 million square miles, which is even less than Asia’s surface area. When it comes to weight, Planet Earth weighs over 80 times more than the Moon, and has far more gravity on its surface than its satellite.
2. It Used To Have A Magnetic Field
Today it is known that the Moon does not in fact have a global magnetic field. But through time and research, scientists have discovered this was simply not always the case. Moon rocks that were collected during previous space shuttle missions, show that at one time it did have a magnetic field- many years ago. “The defining question of lunar science for more than four decades, even before the Apollo missions, is to what extent is the moon an unmelted primordial body like many asteroids, as opposed to a melted evolved body with a multilayered structure, which can have a metallic core with a magnetic field,” planetary scientist Benjamin Weiss said in an interview with Space.com. But no one is quite sure when exactly the Moon’s magnetism died down. There’s evidence it lasted until at least 3.3 billion years ago, and perhaps as long as 1.3 billion years ago, Weiss added.
1. It Appears To Be A Few Different Colors
You’re sitting outside on a warm summer night and happen to peer up at the magnificently bright Moon in the sky…what color does it appear to be? If you answered white, you’re wrong. Well, you’re not TOTALLY wrong….but the Moon just so happens to be a variety of colors, depending on a few different factors. The primary color of the Moon’s surface is gray, with the darker spots appearing from volcanic craters. There are also parts of “nature’s nightlight” that appear to be of a green hue, due to earth rocks called Olivine. During the night, when it’s dark out, it does appear to be white, but when the Moon is set lower in the sky, it can appear yellow at times due to the light rays having to pass through a bit of a thicker atmosphere to shine through, and when it’s set higher in the sky, it appears to be a white hue.