The Earth's moon is one of the most beautiful and compelling satellites in our solar system. Nearly as old as our roughly 4.6 billion-year-old planet, the moon has been a source of mystery and enchantment for ages.
Our lunar fascination encompasses ancient Pagan rituals, moon-gazing, and most recently, human visitation. Concluding an exciting "Space Race" between Russian and American astronauts, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong from the United States were the first men to step foot on the moon in 1969. One of the most momentous days in NASA history, this visit facilitated scientific authentication of lunar findings. Aldrin and Armstrong came back to Earth with nearly 25 kg of moon rocks and other materials for dissection and analysis.
Since 1969, several other countries have been successful in reaching the moon, however, the United States remains the only country who has conquered manned moon-walks. To this day, only 12 American astronauts have touched foot on the moon. The last manned mission was completed in December, 1972.
The moon is a fascinating and mystical component of our galaxy. Not just a pretty face, it is responsible for some pretty amazing phenomena. From the tides to our sleeping patterns, the moon's influence on our lives cannot be denied. Its reputed powers still occupy an equivocal position between science and myth.
Let's take a look at 15 things that the moon effects:
15 The Tides
The correlation between the moon and the changing tides is due to the gravitational forces present in the solar system. These pulls maintain the equilibrium of the Earth's rotation on its own axis, whilst keeping the moon in constant rotation around the Earth.
Gravity and centrifugal forces are responsible for keeping the oceans waters at equal levels around the planet. The moon's pull, however, is strong enough to disrupt this balance ever so slightly.
The result is the daily occurrence of high tide and low tide. If you've ever spent an entire day at the beach, you've most certainly witnessed the changing of the tides.
The Earth completes a full rotation once every 24 hours, resulting in one high tide and one low tide roughly every 12 hours.
14 Our Moods
We've all heard of, or experienced directly, a case of the full-moon crazies. The term "lunatic" originates from the Latin lunaticus, which essentially means "moonlike". The full moon has notoriously been depicted as a time of intense feels in popular movies and music. From Stephen King novels to CCR songs, this cliché spans centuries of folklore and science alike.
Theoretically, our emotions are heightened during a full moon due to the levels of water in our bodies. Like the tides, the water within us is pulled at higher intensities during periods when the moon is fullest. The result is an intensification of emotions, compulsive behaviour and chaotic thoughts.
The Spiritual Science Research Foundation (SSRF) proposed that the correlation is due to the subconscious mind's ability to sense the frequencies, or energies of the moon. Since everything in the Universe can be broken down into non-solid, energetic components, this theory is not that far-fetched!
13 Our Sleeping Patterns
Restless sleep? Insomnia? Bad dreams? New research has discovered that we can blame these unpleasant occurrences on the moon.
Sleep researchers at the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel in Switzerland have published some very interesting findings. Sleep studies conducted on participants over a 4 year period have concluded that sleep quality decreases by up to 30% around the full moon. Further, the research subjects were all healthy, drug and alcohol-free and had no previously reported sleeping problems. The participants were unaware that researchers were evaluating their sleep patterns during the full moon while taking part in the study, which eliminated any research bias.
We are already aware that our bodies are biologically fine-tuned to a circadian rhythm, which enables us to adapt to our environment's climate and natural sunlight. Based on these findings, scientists are wondering whether a biological circalunar rhythm is also at play.
12 Crime Rates
The prevalence of violent crimes around the full moon has been a topic of study for decades. Police officers and doctors from all over the world have supported the theory that people are more prone to violence when the moon is full. Additional officers are routinely dispatched during the week of the full moon in many British cities. Coined the "lunar effect", the predominance of aggressive behaviour has also been linked to schizophrenic patients in mental institutions.
Whereas no scientific studies have been able to confirm or deny this theory, evolution may be to blame for our more aggressive tendencies. Our Cro-Magnon ancestors had better visibility for hunting under the full moon. This "caveman" ideology might explain why people are more prone to violent and aggressive outbursts at specific times in the moon's cycle.
11 Birth Rates
Superstition would have us believe that the rate of births dramatically rises during the full moon. Ask any midwife or labour nurse, and they will confirm this to be true! Tales of women spontaneously going into labour and stories of overflowing nurseries have been told for decades. Folklore aside, empirical data supports the claim of an increase in births during the period before and after the full moon. Despite it being a nominally slight increase, birth rate is approximately 1% higher when the moon is fullest.
Although the higher birth rate applies to a period of one week before and after the full moon, this still supports the theory that birth rate is highest when the moon is brightest and fullest.
10 Our Astrological Sign
Most of us have a basic, at best, understanding of Western astrology. We are familiar with our astrological sun signs, a group of 12 zodiac symbols that are based on constellations. The planets and sun orbit through the astrological belt during various seasons, associating a cosmic symbol to different periods in the calendar year. The position of the sun at the time of your birth provides you with your astrological sun sign.
Astrology buffs and metaphysical geeks will have you know that your sun sign is not the most accurate astrological element. In fact, the position of the moon at the time of your birth is said to provide far more insight into a person's feelings and emotions. While the sun sign can summarize basic character traits, the moon sign can delve into deeper territory. The moon sign can help us understand how we feel and process emotions, what our subconscious fears are and what drives us to behave in certain ways.
Solar and lunar eclipses are astronomical occurrences that include 3 key players: the Sun, the moon and the Earth. A lunar eclipse occurs when the full moon passes through the Earth's shadow, and is temporarily made invisible in the night sky. Similarly, a solar eclipse happens when the moon passes in front of the sun, blocking the rays from reaching Earth. Due to the size of the sun in respect to the smaller moon, a solar eclipse only remains visible for a window of about 7 minutes and 31 seconds. This is why solar eclipses are historically viewed as more mystical and rare; even though they occur with roughly the same frequency as lunar eclipses. In the last century, there has been no more than seven total eclipses reported per calendar year. In 1934, there was a record- high of 5 solar eclipses! That year must have seen the rise of shoes sales, as well. We all remember the homemade shoebox eclipse viewers that were prominent in our childhood.
We can thank the moon for this cosmic eye candy. Without it, there would be no solar or lunar eclipses.
8 Visibility at Night
The sun is credited as being the brightest light in our cosmic neighbourhood, for good reason. Despite being close to 150 million km away from Earth, it's size in relation to our planet is responsible for the intensity of its brightness. The sun is so large that, if it were hollow, roughly 65 million moons could fit inside.
The moon, despite being much smaller, plays a big role in how we see at night. Humans and most animals have pretty good night vision, but what we don't realize is that the moon is responsible for much of this when we are outside. When the moon is new and almost invisible in the night sky, everything seems darker, except for the stars which seem to shine brighter. Contrarily, a full moon seems to blind out the stars and light up the sky.
If you've ever gone camping or walked in the countryside during different moon phases, you can attest that the moon absolutely plays a role in visibility!
7 The Laying and Hatching of Turtle Eggs
Strolling along the beach during a full moon is a treat to the senses. Depending on your location, you might be lucky to witness one of nature's most mystifying processes: sea turtles incubating their eggs in the sand.
Mother sea turtles make their way to shore during a full moon, when the tide is high and visibility is increased. They dig a deep hole, usually far enough from the water's edge, where they then lay as many as 200 eggs. The eggs remain buried in the sand for close to a full month. They begin to hatch just as a new full moon emerges in the sky.
So how do they know that it's a full moon? Scientists have concluded that the baby turtles can sense the pull of the moon, and the higher tides. Since the water is closer to their nest, they have a higher chance of survival if they make their escape during the full moon. Furthermore, there are less predators roaming the beaches at night, so the likelihood of being snapped up by a seagull is diminished. The odds are against them, though. Roughly 1-4% of the baby turtles survive into adulthood, while the majority perish before making it back to sea.
6 Surgical Outcomes
Ayurveda and Eastern religions have long sworn by the healing powers of the moon. Until recently, Western practitioners would shrug off the impact that the moon has on our bodies' ability to remedy itself. Recently though, studies conducted on the correlation between cardiovascular surgery and recovery times has shown a significant boost in patient's amelioration during the full moon. Further, the rate of death following emergency surgeries around this period were dramatically lower. What causes this phenomenon?
Research would suggest that the higher atmospheric energies are mirrored in the patient's bodies, causing a stronger resistance to disease and cellular breakdown. The full moon literally charges out bodies with energy to help combat ailments.
5 The Gregorian Calendar
Internationally recognized as the most used calendar, the Gregorian has been referenced since its induction by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. The introduction of the calendar was meant to iron out some discrepancies in the previously used Julian calendar. Majorly influenced by the Christian church, the Gregorian sought to place the Easter holiday at a date where it was historically celebrated by the Church.
Church aside, the calendar was mostly based on celestial activity.
Taking into account the Earth's rotation on its own axis, the Earth's complete rotation around the sun and the moon's rotation around the Earth created some calculation complexities. For ages, mathematicians were stumped on how to accurately define time in a linear fashion, based on planetary and satellite movement. Although a typical lunar cycle lasts roughly 29.5 days, the months were originally based on the moon phases, which is why our months range from 28 to 31 days in length.
4 Our "Pleasure" Drive
The correlation between the moon and our sexual habits has its roots in tribal practices. Most full moon rites revolved around ancient beliefs about fertility and conception. The moon has long been prayed to in order to increase a woman's fertility and a man's virility. Tribes in Africa, bushmen in Australia and eskimos in Alaska all held similar beliefs that conception was guaranteed during a full moon.
Modern day lore romanticizes a full moon, thereby increasing the frequency of hookups during this period. Fables aside, there have actually been studies to support the increase in sexual activity during the full moon. German psychologist Bernhard Klausner monitored the sexual habits of 28 healthy men over a period of 3 years. His findings? A significant 74% of their activity fell within the periods when the moon was full.
3 Pet Injuries
Yet another medical moon mystery brings us to the topic of pets. No, we're not referring to the macabre "Pet Sematary" depicted in Stephen King's famed novel, although the following statistics are definitely creepy! Veterinarians working at emergency clinics for domestic pets have reported increases in injured canine and feline friends during fuller moon periods. Inexplicably, the increases surged to a whopping 25% in some cities.
Most vets chalk this up to the pets spending more time outside when the sky is brightest, resulting in a natural spike in accidents. Others, however, believe that the full moon makes animals go a little "loony", causing more recklessness and injuries.
2 Predatory Hunting Habits
Lions and other predators typically hunt their prey during the night hours. Their phenomenal night vision allows them to hone in on their targets and surprise their unsuspecting victims. Despite greater visibility when the moon is full, lions are less successful with hunting during this time. Reduced prey activity is the main reason for this decrease in success.
This could mean bad luck for humans. Due to the slow hunt, the daytime hours immediately following the full moon are most dangerous for prey, animal or human. You do not want to cross paths with a hungry lion who hasn't been able to successfully snack for more than a day. A study based on lions attacking humans in Tanzania was conducted over a 20 year period to see if there was a correlation with the full moon. Two thirds of the reported attacks during the full moon period resulted in the human prey being attacked and eaten.
1 Seasonal Harvest
Since its first publication in 1792, the Old Farmer's Almanac has been a widely consulted guide that predicts weather forecasts, moon cycles and tide charts. Based on Newtonian gravitation laws explaining the effect the moon has on the tides, something called lunar planting gained popularity. The idea was that the water in the Earth's core was at its highest when the tides were highest, during a full moon. This created a moist soil that was suitable for planting and sprouting seeds. The amount of moisture retained by the plants was at an all-time high during the full moon, resulting in more prosperous crops.
To this day, farmers still consult the Almanac to schedule the best times for planting.
Sources: en.wikipedia.org; hwww.space.com