"That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” were the famous words spoken by Neil Armstrong as he set foot on the Moon on this day, 20th July, in 1969. International Moon Day celebrates this achievement.
The Moon is covered in dead volcanos, lava flows and impact craters created by meteoroids hitting its surface. We can see the Moon's craters when we look up at the Moon in the night sky. But what about the meteoroids themselves? Meteoroids are small bits of dust and rocks which orbit around the sun like miniature planets, and sometimes they collide with the Moon or the Earth. When they travel through the Earth’s atmosphere, we see them burning bright in the sky – we call these ‘shooting stars’! If a piece of the meteoroid makes it to the surface of the Earth, we call it a meteorite. Even smaller pieces are called micrometeorites, and these can also be used for research purposes. If you would like to help, find and collect these extra-terrestrial objects, visit Oriel Science, and a member of staff will help you with your quest!
Interesting Facts about the Moon
From the Earth, the Sun and the Moon appear to be nearly the same size. However, the Sun is about 400 times wider than the Moon, but because it is 400 times further away, it appears the same size. This means that in a total solar eclipse, the Moon covers the Sun cutting out all the Sun’s direct light. The Sun’s diameter is enormous, well over 1,000,000km, whereas the Moon’s is only around 3,400km, nearly four times smaller than the Earth’s.
The Moon is the main reason that there are tides on the Earth. The high tide is caused by the Moon’s gravity as it pulls the water closest to it. There is a second high tide on the opposite side of the Earth because the water there, being further away from the Moon, is pulled less, and so is “left behind”.
The Moon is drifting away from the Earth at approximately 3.8cm every year.
Due to the Earth’s tidal force on the Moon, the Moon’s rotation has slowed so the time it takes to make one turn on its axis is the same as the amount of time it takes to orbit the Earth once. So, although the Moon is still rotating, it always keeps the same side facing the Earth.
There is water on the Moon which is in the form of ice trapped within dust and minerals on the Moon’s surface. It is thought that water was delivered by comets.
Phases of the Moon
The Moon doesn’t create its own light, so we only see it because it reflects the Sun’s light. Half of the Moon, at any time, is not facing the Sun, and so appears dark. Because the Moon orbits around the Earth, we see different amounts of the Moon lit up – causing the “Phases” of the Moon.