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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: August 2011

5 - The Earth's Moon: stepping stone to the planets

from Part 2 - The inner solar system: rocky worlds

Summary

• When the Moon moves into the Earth's shadow, the full Moon turns blood red; when the Earth travels into the Moon's shadow it can become dark during the day.

• The full Moon looks bigger near the horizon than directly overhead, but its changing size is an illusion.

• The Moon spins on its axis with the same period in which it revolves around the Earth, at 27.3 days, keeping its far side forever hidden to Earth-bound observers.

• The near side of the Moon contains light, rugged, cratered regions called highlands and dark smooth lava flows dubbed maria; the far side of the Moon is mostly highlands and has very few maria.

• For more than two centuries, lunar craters were attributed to volcanoes on the Moon, but they are now widely known to be due to the explosive impact of interplanetary projectiles, known as meteors when in space and meteorites upon hitting the surface of a moon or planet.

• More than thirty years ago, twelve humans roamed the surface of the Moon and brought back nearly half a ton of rocks.

• Because the Moon has almost no atmosphere, its sky remains pitch black in broad daylight and there is no sound or weather on the Moon.

• Two modest spacecraft, named Clementine and Lunar Prospector, chalked up an impressive list of accomplishments in the 1990s, including evidence for a lunar core and for water ice at the poles of the Moon. […]

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