35 fascinating facts about the Moon

January 26, 2021 | Environment
The Moon: formed 4.51 billion years ago after the birth of the Solar System | Photo: NASA/Creative Commons

It's the only place outside the Earth where humans have stepped foot. Discover interesting facts about the Moon.

Planet Earth only has one satellite - the Moon.

It's our nearest neighbor, even though it is around 240,000 miles (385,000 kilometers) away from us.

The Moon has always enchanted humans, inspiring scientists and artists alike. Why? Maybe because it is intrinsically connected with our world.

Take a look at the most surprising facts about the Moon.

1. The Moon formed 4.51 billion years ago, and around 50 million years after the birth of the Solar System;

2. The origin of the Moon is not unanimous among the scientific community. Nevertheless, the prevailing theory is that both the Earth and the Moon system formed after a giant clash of a Mars-sized body with the proto-Earth that blasted material into Earth's orbit and then formed the Moon;

3. When it comes to its chemical composition, the lunar surface is composed of silica (45 percent), alumina (14.9-24.0 percent), lime (11.8-15.9 percent), iron oxide (5.9-14.1 percent), magnesia (7.5-9.2 percent), titanium dioxide (0.6-3.9 percent), and sodium oxide (0.6 percent);

4. The crust of the Moon is on average about 31 miles (50 kilometers) thick;

5. The Moon is not a perfectly round sphere - it's an oval, egg-shaped satellite thanks to the Earth's gravity pull;

Moon: the Earth's satellite is 240,000 miles away from us | Photo: NASA/Creative Commons

6. The Moon is the fifth largest satellite of the Solar System after Jupiter's Ganymede, Callisto and Io, and Saturn's Titan satellites;

7. The Moon orbits Earth at an average speed of 1.28 light-seconds;

8. The Moon is one quarter the diameter of the Earth;

9. The Moon's temperature ranges from -279 °F (-172 °C) at night to 260 °F (126 °C) in the afternoon;

10. The Moon's surface gravity is roughly one-sixth of Earth's;

11. The Moon gravitates around its own axis;

12. The diameter of the Moon is 2,159.2 miles (3,475 kilometers), i.e., a third the width of Earth;

13. 59 percent of the surface of the Moon is visible from Earth through changes in perspective;

14. Babylonian astronomers were the first to understand and record the lunar cycles in the 5th century BC;

15. The lunar surface is just slightly brighter than worn asphalt but reflects sunlight and gets a high contrast from the surrounding dark sky. Interestingly, the Moon reflects three times less sunlight than Earth;

Moon: Edwin Aldrin's footprints may last forever on the lunar surface | Photo: NASA/Creative Commons

16. The apparent size of the Moon is roughly the same as that of the Sun, making it possible to witness a total solar eclipse;

17. The exosphere - Moon's own atmosphere - is composed of helium, neon, and argon, and it is ten trillion times less dense than that of Earth;

18. The Moon is surrounded by a permanent asymmetric dust cloud;

19. The Soviet Union was the first nation to have a spacecraft reaching the surface of the Moon. In 1959, the uncrewed Luna 2 made contact with the celestial body;

20. The United States was the first country to land humans on the Moon. In 1960, Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface;

21. Smartphones are more powerful than the computers used to land Apollo spacecraft on the surface of the Moon;

22. A total of 12 people have been to the Moon. Neil Armstrong (1969) was the first, and Eugene Cernan (1972) was the last;

23. The fresh tracks left by 1960s and 1970s astronauts on the Moon could remain intact for millions of years because of the absence of water and wind on the Moon;

24. The word "moon" derives from the Old English expression "mōna," which comes from the Proto-Germanic term "mēnōn," which in turn originates from the Proto-Indo-European word "mēnsis," meaning "month";

25. The expressions "Luna," "Cynthia," and "Selene" have also been used to refer to the Moon, both in science and literature;

Man on the moon: in 1960, Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface | Photo: NASA/Creative Commons

26. Maria - the Latin word for "seas" - is the name given to the dark lunar plains that were once filled with water and can be seen with the naked eye from the Earth;

27. Aitken is the name of the Moon's largest crater, which measures 1,240 miles (1,995 kilometers);

28. Terrae - the Latin word for "land" or "Earth" - is the name given to the light-colored regions of the Moon. They're the satellite's highlands;

29. In 2018, scientists announced "definitive evidence" of water on the surface of the Moon. In 2020, astronomers revealed the detection of molecular water on the sunlit surface of the Moon;

30. The Moon's forces of attraction are responsible for the Earth's tides. The Sun also has a tidal effect on our planet, even though with significantly less influence;

31. The Moon has its own quakes, even though they're weaker than those experienced on Earth. They're called moonquakes and may last up to 30 minutes;

32. The Moon completes an orbit around Earth every 27.3 days but only shows the same phase to Earth in around 29.5 days;

33. The Moon's time zone is called Lunar Standard Time (LST). A year consists of 12 days named after the 12 astronauts that first set foot on the satellite;

34. People on Earth always see the same side of the Moon;

35. The mistakenly called "dark side" (or far side) of the Moon is actually illuminated as often as the near side;

36. The first picture of the other side of the Moon was taken in 1959 by Soviet Union's Luna 3 spacecraft;