Why Is Our Natural Satellite Simply Called “The Moon”
Have you ever wondered why the Earth’s only natural satellite is called “the Moon” All the other moons in the solar system have proper names like Titan, Ganymede, Europa, Enceladus, and the list goes on.
In the solar system, the total number of confirmed moons that orbit planets are 205, Mercury and Venus have no moons, and as you know Earth has only 1 moon, Mars has 2, Jupiter has 79, Saturn has 82, Uranus has 27 and Neptune the most distant planet has 14.
Dwarf planets can also have moons, Pluto has 5 of them, and surprisingly some asteroids have moons as well, in 1993 the large asteroid Ida was found to have a tiny moon that was given the name Dactyl.
When our natural satellite was named “the Moon” there was no need for a more specific name to differentiate it from other moons, we never knew that other moons existed until Galileo discovered 4 moons in orbit around Jupiter, that discovery was made way back in 1610.
Image by Darkmoon_Art from Pixabay
I think the Italian name Luna or the Greek name Selene are better-sounding names for the Moon, but that is just my opinion.
The Moon has been the Earth’s companion for roughly 4.4 billion years and is not much younger than the Earth itself. The most excepted theory about the existence of the Moon is that the Earth was impacted by another planet similar in size to Mars. A vast amount of material was blasted out into space. The debris from the impact came together in orbit and eventually formed the Moon.
The Moon was a lot closer to our planet back then, it is suggested that it was orbiting between 20 to 30 thousand kilometres from the surface of the Earth, today it travels around the Earth at a distance of 384,000 kilometres.
There was no life back then that could have looked up at the night sky, but just imagine how big the Moon would have looked being so close to the Earth.
Even today the Moon is slowly moving away from the Earth at 3.8 centimetres each year, it seems like a very short distance, but in millions or even billions of years, you can see how the kilometres would add up.
Most of us will have witnessed a solar eclipse when the Moon travels in front of the Sun, and a few of us will have seen a total solar eclipse when the Moon completely covers the Sun. This is only possible because the Sun and the Moon look similar in size when viewed from the surface of the Earth.
Photo by Jongsun Lee on Unsplash
In roughly 600 million years or more, the Moon will be so far away from our planet that a total solar eclipse will be impossible, and the Moon will be visibly too small in the sky to completely block out the Sun.
Without the Moon, a day on Earth would be roughly 12 hours, half as long as it is now. Over billions of years, the gravitational force of the Moon has slowed the speed of the Earth as it spins on its axis. With no moon, the night sky would be a lot darker, and our tides much weaker.
Who knows without the Moon, life might have taken a different evolutionary path, we humans might have never existed.
As I write this article my mind goes back to over 50 years ago. I remember looking up at the Moon on the night of July 20th, 1969, I could hardly believe that two men were walking on its surface.
I feel so lucky to have been the age to witness and understand that great event, and so proud of the human race for what they had achieved.
End of article.
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Our highly developed brain has given us intelligence and curiosity, now with the help of sophisticated scientific instruments, we can try and make sense of the Universe and our existence.