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The Moon

  • The Moon

    There are many moons in our solar system, which orbit planets, just like planets orbit the Sun. Earth has one Moon, Mars has two small moons, Mercury and Venus don’t have any, while Jupiter has at least 63! The Earth’s Moon is made up of rocks, both solid and molten. Quick Q’s: 1. Does our Moon have a scientific name? Astronomers call the Earth’s Moon Luna, to distinguish it from the natural satellites of other planets. 2. If the Moon is cold and dark, how does it give off light? The Moon does not give off light of its own. It simply reflects the sunlight that falls on it. 3. Why can’t we see the Moon during the day? During the day the bright light of the Sun blocks the soft glow of light reflected by the Moon. 4. What are spring tides and neap tides? When the Sun, the Moon and the Earth are in a straight line, the gravitational force of the Sun strengthens that of the Moon causing tides that are higher than usual. These are called spring tides (although they have nothing to do with the season of Spring). When the Sun and the Moon are at right angles to the Earth, weaker tides, called neap tides, are caused. Tides are important to wash away the debris off the coasts. Q Why is the Moon’s surface filled with craters? A The Moon does not have an atmosphere. Therefore, meteors and asteroids from outer space crash into its surface making craters. Tycho crater, one of the biggest lunar craters, is more than 85 kilometres (50 miles) wide. Q What does the term ‘Blue Moon’ mean? Blue Moon refers to the second Full Moon to appear in a month. It is very rare indeed. There are other definitions of Blue Moon as well, but this is the most widely accepted definition nowadays. Q How does the Moon cause tides in our oceans and seas? A Tides are caused by the gravitational force exerted by the Moon on our planet. This force causes the ocean to bulge out in the direction of the Moon, making the tide rise. As the Earth is also pulled towards the Moon, the ocean on the side facing away from the Moon also bulges out. So it is high tide there as well. In the region between the two bulges (high tides) the water level decreases, causing low tides. Tides are higher in the tropics due to the bulge of the equator. Many forms of life on the coast are tailored to the cycle of tides. 20 Q Why does the Moon appear crescentshaped at times? A The shape of the Moon as seen from the Earth keeps changing. The changing shapes of the Moon are called phases. When the side of the Moon that faces the Earth is turned away from the Sun, we are unable to see the Moon. This phase is called the New Moon. As the Moon travels in its orbit around the Earth, we start to see a small portion of the Moon that is lit up by the Sun. This is called the Crescent Moon. The lit up portion seen by us slowly increases, and we see a Half Moon, then a Three-quarter Moon. When the Moon completes a half orbit around the Earth, we can see the entire disc lit up by the Sun – the Full Moon. Crescent Moon As the Moon orbits around the Earth, we see only a part of it that is lit up by the Sun, depending upon the angle made by the Earth, the Moon and the Sun. High and low The gravitational pull of the Moon on the Earth causes tides in the oceans and seas of the Earth